This is one of the most intriguing aspects of the aviation world, from my point of view. It has nothing to do with Cirrus itself.
The most interesting stat I came across when doing my airplane book is this: for as long as records have been kept (ie, since the early 1920s), the proportion of pilots who are women has been almost constant. Just about six per cent, year in and year out.
There are lots of gender-balance stats where the explanation is obviously lack of opportunity or encouragement. My father graduated from medical school in 1949, and his was the first graduating class at that school to have any women in it. Now medical school enrollment is almost 50-50, and nationwide I think there are more women then men law students. My college was 75/25 male/female when I attended and is now 50/50.
The constancy of piloting figures suggests that the aviation gap is something more than simply the lack of “role models,” or barriers, or the like – though those factors nonetheless exist. Some people also say that it’s “purely” a financial difference – women don’t feel as free to squander the family resources on flying toys. There may be something to that-- especially in the case of the Cirrus or Lancair community, where the price of admission is high. But if this were the principal reason, we’d see more women with the cheaper, older airplanes.
My hypothesis has been: there is something about the combination of experiences involved in flying that just appeals to a larger number of men than of women. Clearly there’s a mixture of attractions in this business. I was never a car nut and tolerate, rather than enjoy, having to learn about exhaust-gas temperature; other people love this aspect. What I love is the way things look when you’re zooming from place to place, plus the procedural aspects of instrument flight. There are people, of whom I am not one, who love the race-car / fighter-pilot aspects. But whatever the ingredients in this mix, they attract more men.
In my own household, my wife was a competitive racing-sailor in her youth, and I thought she would be fascinated by airplanes. She is not afraid of them, but she judges them on purely utilitarian terms. The Cirrus makes it easier for us to visit our kids and parents, so it’s a plus. She would never go on a $100 hamburger trip.
It’s obviously not an all or nothing thing: we all know women flyers who are just as nuts about this as the standard man, and the biography of Beryl Markham (“West With the Night,”) even more than Amelia Earhart, shows that women share the fascination of flying. It seems to be a population-distribution matter. There is a certain kind of person who loves this activity, and more such people are male than female.
Whenever I meet a woman or girl who seems interested in flying, I encourage her to start lessons.