Maria Fagerstrom shares behind the scenes details of her life as an airline pilot with her followers on Instagram. In a Q&A, she describes how she got her start, and what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated field.
What inspired you to become an airline pilot?
I have always been fascinated by the life of an airline pilot, which I got to see first-hand growing up as my dad was and still is a pilot, flying long-haul on the Airbus 330/340. I would join him on trips, sitting on the flight deck jump-seat watching him work. That’s how I was introduced into the aviation world.
Why did you start using social media to share your career as an airline pilot?
I’ve had a passion for photography and storytelling as long as I can remember, and with social media I’m able to combine by two favorite hobbies and give insight into the aviation world as a female pilot. With it, I hope to inspire others and show people that with the right mindset and hard work it’s possible to come closer to do the things you desire in life.
Do you have any role models or mentors in your industry? If so, how have they helped you in your career?
Choosing to become a pilot felt like a very natural path for me, as I had such strong support from my parents. They have been and will always be my role models in life.
What advice would you have for women who are just starting their career as an airline pilot?
I’d give the same advice to anyone whether male or female. The decision to become a pilot should be well thought through. It’s a huge commitment both time wise and financially based. But if you have the passion and drive, and love a challenge, then the rewards and the lifestyle that comes with being a pilot are definitely worth it.
What is the best part about being able to share your experiences with your followers?
The positive feedback and support I receive from my followers is what keeps me wanting to share more of the ’behind the scenes’ as a pilot and life in Spain.
What are some best practices for women who want to rise in leadership? (Within the airline industry)
I’ve found that people are often genuinely surprised when they see a female pilot, but that’s only because we are a minority in the industry. I think if you’re qualified and can fly the aircraft, it doesn’t matter whether you are male or female. However, there are people with narrow mindsets that are stuck in their stereotypic way of thinking how a pilot should behave, should look like, and should be. The best way to tackle this is to lead by being an example. My own experience has always been very positive, and the gender gap has only motivated me to prove I can do as good a job as my male colleagues.
What are changes you would like to see in the airline industry for women?
Flying is a great and unique career, and it suits both genders equally well. Of all the pilots out there, 95 percent of them are male, and I’d would love to see that female ratio increase. I will continue to spread any message that brings people attention to that, because I think by regularly promoting flying as a career option to young girls we can close the gender gap.