Airline flies girls to work

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ST girl child 5 INLSA SAA invited schoolgirls from various provinces to participate in its Take a Girl Child to Work initiative, set up to stimulate girls from a young age and to inspire them to join the aviation industry. The learners were exposed to an emergency landing. Picture: Mujahid Safodien

NTOMBI NDHLOVU

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TAKE A deep breath. Breathe out slowly. Don’t look out of the window. The sky is the limit.

These were some of the internal dialogues held by the young girls who flew for the first time from their home provinces to Johannesburg to be part of SAA’s Take a Girl Child to Work campaign.

The pupils variously described the experience as “exciting” and “nerve wracking”.

Yesterday, at its Airways Park office complex, SAA hosted 40 girls from different schools who are top achievers in maths and science.

Group CEO Siza Mzimela welcomed them, and spoke about the need for women in the aviation industry. SAA has 69 female pilots and is training another 45.

She congratulated the pupils for tackling seemingly difficult maths and science. “If you have these subjects, it prepares you better for the future, irrespective of your career. Don’t give up on these subjects. Don’t take the easy road. Stick it out; the rewards are endless.”

As first female CEO at SAA, some of the girls asked her about how she manages being a black female leader in a male-dominated industry. “I never get intimidated because I know my job. It is just that as a woman I have to work twice as hard. But I also like to think that as a woman I also bring in a certain level of sensitivity.”

One of Mzimela’s objectives for the day was to debunk the stereotypes in the aviation industry that you are either a pilot or one of the cabin crew. “Cabin crew attendants are not there to only serve you food, but are actually safety officials.”

“They have been trained in procedures to respond to all kinds of emergencies.”

Mzimela spoke about the possibilities in aviation, from piloting to management. “We have an Air Chef division, so if you are interested in being a chef then there is a place for you here at SAA.”

The girls asked many questions, such as what destinations SAA travelled to, the changes she had made as CEO and what kept her going. They learned about being a pilot and what must come together to ensure a successful flight.

They also boarded a B737 to learn the roles of the cabin crew, about safety, and took turns at the flight simulators and the jump slide.


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