FLYING ABOVE THE SKIES – VIVIAN FOO HOOI WEN
Vivian Foo Hooi Wen is among the first few female pilots to join Malaysia Airlines. Though it is common to see female pilots oversea, the aviation industry in Malaysia is still largely male-dominated. In this interview with IKON, Vivian shares how she got interested in flying a big metal bird and her challenges in reaching where she stands today.
1. What makes you interested in the aviation industry?
I have always been in awe of planes from a very young age. I still remember growing up, and I would be so fascinated every time I saw a plane be it flying over me or on the television. The first time I flew in a commercial airline, seeing the pilots walk past me into the aircraft, I knew this is what I wanted to do when I grew up.
2. As one of the first female cadets in Malaysia Airlines, how does that makes you feel?
I feel incredibly proud and thankful, knowing that I am part of the rich history of Malaysia Airlines by being the first few female pilots working for them.
3. Going into this path, with pilots in Malaysia being dominantly male-dominated, does that makes you feel anxious?
At first, yes I was a little anxious and nervous as I did not know what to expect nor did I know if I would be able to handle different situations that would arise, however, my male colleagues and Captains were really welcoming and helpful which helped me ease into the work environment smoothly.
4. Throughout pursuing your studies, have you encountered any gender discriminations against you? How do you overcome it?
During the initial stages after enrolling in flying school, I did face some subtle remarks, however, as time passed, I developed my skills and knowledge and proved that a female could fly as plane as soundly as a male.
5. Now that you are a full-fledge pilot with Malaysia Airlines, you posted updates on your social media often, do you get negative feedback from netizens about being a female pilot? How do you usually counter them?
I am glad to say the feedback from my social media posts are positive messages, ranging from primary questions on how to pursue a career in aviation, to many messages from young females being inspired to start the journey into aviation. I am glad I can be an influence to them to achieve their dreams.
6. Do you get many comments from young girls who look up to you as an inspiration? How do you respond to those comments?
Plenty! I get a lot of sweet messages from young girls saying that I have inspired them to get into his industry. Most of them did not know that females could break into this field. As much as I can, I offer them advice and guidance on how to start their journey as well as wishing them luck and success. I hope that I can inspire more young females to embark into this highly rewarding position.
7. What do you think is the biggest challenges that women have to face to penetrate the male-dominated industry?
The biggest challenge to me would be to transition into the working environment smoothly, seeing that most of the captains that I have flown with have never flown with a female pilot before. Giving them the assurance that females can work and fly just as well as male pilots by putting in the hard work and hours, is the crucial ingredient in overcoming this.
8. Lastly, do you have any messages for young girls that might want to follow your footsteps or to break gender norms in the workforces?
The message that I’d like to share is that females can do the same if not better than what males can. Gender should not be a roadblock to achieve your dreams. I urge all the young girls aspiring to be pilot to work hard, study smart and never give up! For the day they taste flight, it will be the most rewarding experience of their lives, and there is no looking back from there.