How to Succeed as a Woman in a Man’s World

Anne Bonfert

The struggle is real in the skydiving business

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My skydiving career

When I started to skydive there was no female instructor at the dropzone nor even one in the country. Yes, Namibia might not be very populated but it is actually a famous place to skydive. Its scenery is very unique. The view from above is breathtakingly beautiful.

However, I did have some great instructors who taught me a lot. During my training and further years of collecting experience, I had often girls on my side who also wanted to pick up this sport. I did see a lot of them struggling out of various reasons. One of the reasons is definitely that none of the instructors really understood the problems and fears the girls were facing.

In some situations, only a woman will understand why a girl acts like that or that. Female teachers in all kinds of sports have different learning methods and approaches to their students. And sometimes those different approaches are necessary. They are necessary to keep a person in the sport.

I could cope most of the time with the male instructors who were teaching me. But I saw in the end what difference it makes having an idol to look up to. A female one. A female instructor who made it in a man’s world. A skydiving instructor who is just 5 feet tall but stands her ground around the testosterone-filled men.

I just started to work in the industry as a camera flyer and coach when I met this girl. She was already a tandem instructor and has trained lots of students to become skydivers themselves. She spoke differently to me. She said I can do anything a man can do. She told me how to do certain moves in a different way. She helped me on how to talk with men I’m working with and most importantly how to stand my ground once I became an instructor.

Despite being a young and yet inexperienced instructor doesn’t mean I have no experience. I have deserved my rating. I did a difficult training program in order to achieve the status of an instructor. I do have knowledge. And I do have to stand behind my words. Which means sometimes to ignore someone else’s words.

A new era

The skydiving industry is from the start a very adrenaline-filled business. For a man, it is easy to impress anyone but especially girls. Simply by jumping out of a plane they were already heroes. They didn’t have to do anything special.

But the change is happening.

But now, since more and more female skydivers are coming up it starts to look differently. Especially since the girls started to do the same job men did. Taking passengers with them and doing tandem skydives. All of a sudden the men didn’t feel that untouchable anymore.

And they didn’t like it.

But you know what? You better gonna deal with it! Because we are coming after you guys. We are indeed already here. On your height. Maybe not in numbers. But in strength. There is a very strong female skydiving community raising and by standing together we grow a real power. We learn from each other and support each other.

And that is why you won’t be able to stop us.

Being a female instructor in a men’s world

We often don’t get taken seriously. We get laughed at. We get labeled as too soft for this sport. We get pushed in the corner of the plane because we don’t need so much space and we get told we’ll never reach the level of a male skydiving God. That’s how some of them see themselves.

It isn’t always easy. And also for myself, it wasn’t an easy journey. I didn’t only fight against strong men around me but also against women who wanted to compete with me. Who saw this whole thing as a competition. Who is going to be the best one?

One of them made my days like hell by acting as if I was a fool. Whilst it is already a challenge to work in this industry another woman actually wanted to destroy my career out of jealousy.

But I had my goal in front of my eyes. I wanted to become an instructor. I wanted to teach girls how to skydive. I wanted to talk to them so that they don’t have fear. That they are not afraid of jumping out of a plane. I wanted to teach them to be proud of themselves.

My goal was and still is to grow the female skydiving community. To learn from others and teach them how to stand your ground. How to fly like a woman because who wants to fly like a man? We actually do have a better body composition for flying because our center of gravity sits at the hips.

We need to use this advantage to let it work in favor of us. Skydiving is actually a sport where women have no disadvantage (apart from tandem jumping).

And that is why we will be soon looking into your eyes. On the same level. Not because we want to compete against you. But because we also want to fly. And we can fly. Just like you.

And because it is actually quite badass to be a female skydiving instructor. Or just to be a female skydiver itself. That is already enough to impress anyone out there in the world.

We jump out of planes. By ourselves. And we do this gracefully!

And this is why I’m sometimes too busy to write. Because I’m busy flying. In the sky. I hope you understand and wait patiently for the next article. Thank you.

Only 13 percent of all skydivers in the US are female. Despite having evolved a lot from the 60s where skydiving was really a tough sport it is still a predominantly male activity. But there are females in the sky. And there are also female instructors in the sky. Just have a look at Skydive Chicago and other Skydiving operations in your area.

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I am a traveler. Photographer. Writer. Teacher. Skydiving instructor. Adventure enthusiast. Nature lover. And fell in love with the African continent. My stories go around travel, nature and all kinds of adventurous activities.

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