Aviation industry pioneer Zoya Agarwal on gender equality and making dreams come true

At the Women On a Mission summit, commercial pioneer Zoya Agarwal shared her journey of working hard despite the odds and advised young girls and women to tackle gender bias to achieve one’s dreams.

Aviation industry pioneer Zoya Agarwal on gender equality and making dreams come true

Tuesday March 22, 2022,

3 min Read

Air India’s captain Zoya Agarwal is a pioneer in the field of her childhood dreams. The first woman in the world to fly Boeing-777, she commanded an all-women crew operating the world’s longest commercial flight from San Francisco to Bengaluru last year.

Zoya was all of eight years old when she dreamt of becoming a pilot much to the fear of her middle class parents. 

During a fireside chat at HerStory’s Women On a Mission summit, Zoya said, “My mom started crying when she heard I wanted to become a pilot. I was the only girl in the family and she would ask if I couldn't do anything normal like other girls.”

“Having a dream made me overcome a lot of hurdles in my life. I went against my societal norms, against my own and my parents and so had to work incredibly hard to be able to achieve it,” said Zoya, who was only the fifth woman pilot at Air India when she joined the airlines industry.

To a certain extent, Zoya is amazed at herself for having stuck to her dream despite seeing her mother in tears. “I think it takes a lot for a small child to see your parents like this, but I still continued to follow my heart and honestly, that's pretty much all that I've done all my life. if I were to do it all over again, I still wouldn't have it any other way,” she adds.

Dreams are genderless

At the same time, Zoya became equally wary of the gender bias that exists early in her life. Being among a handful of women in the aviation industry, Zoya remained cautious of the fact that she is drawing the roadmap for other young girls who would join the airline after her.

"I never allowed myself any of the gender biases because I never treated myself any less than any other boy. The pilot's seat does not know whether I'm flying it or my male counterpart is flying. It only understands that the job has to be done,” she said. 

“Gender bias exists and what makes it sad is that we make it a reality. When kids are born into our homes, we divide them as a boy and a girl and tell them that these are the dreams acceptable out of you.

Once everything gets divided equally between a girl and a boy, it is going to change the world because dreams are genderless and that is when this gender biases the stereotypes are going to fade away, she added.

Even when well-meaning people may tell that dreams are hypothetical and to stay within reality, Zoya advised having a dream and vision will guide towards a better tomorrow.

Edited by Ramarko Sengupta