Thursday, March 22, 2018

2018 Women’s History Month: Women of Courage and Conviction – Part 3

The National Women's History Project’s theme for the 2018 Women’s History Month is “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” The National Panhellenic Conference is spotlighting sorority women who have persisted with courage and conviction, particularly in breaking down barriers for other women.

The next sorority woman in our series is both following in the footsteps of other women as well as blazing a trail.

Shaesta Waiz, Theta Phi Alpha, is the youngest woman to fly solo around the world in a single-engine aircraft. She completed her travels in October 2017.

Shaesta Waiz is the first in her family to earn an
undergraduate degree, the first female civilian pilot
from Afghanistan, and the youngest woman to fly
around the world solo in a single-engine plane.

But, her journey has never been easy.

She was born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan. Her parents immigrated to America, where she then grew up in an underprivileged neighborhood in Richmond, California.

To achieve her dream of becoming a pilot, she attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with the help of scholarships and donor support to fund her education.

Geraldine "Jerrie" Fredritz Mock
was the first woman to fly solo
around the world.
In an article in National Geographic, Waiz indicates Jerrie Mock, Phi Mu, the first woman to fly solo around the world – also in a single-engine plane – as her inspiration and mentor.

While Mock’s 1964 journey focused on speed, Waiz had a different mission: to empower women around the world to pursue STEM and aviation careers. Waiz used the stops along her journey to talk to women and children about pursuing their goals.

Waiz also has founded a nonprofit organization called Dreams Soar to help bring awareness of STEM careers and to eventually fund STEM and aviation scholarships for girls and young women. 

Today, only 24 percent of U.S. STEM professionals are female and there are only 450 female airline captains worldwide. Waiz hopes to change that.

As Waiz told the BBC during her trip around the world, her message is that you can be “from any background, you can have any set of challenges but what’s really important is that you have to dream, to dream big and work hard and go after it.”

Sources: Theta Phi Alpha, Phi Mu, Dreams Soar, BBC, National Geographic

See also: