Yesterday our home chapter held the first event in our winter series that goes through April for 1S and 2S Tiny Whoops. The calendar is: racing from 2-5 pm, and a learn to fly event from 5-5:30. We brought our Fat Shark Recons for spectators and our flyers for interested parties to bring home. Our flyers are a brief Intro to Drones tell-all with links to introductory products, helpful communities, and all the organizations and regulations a conscientious hobbyist should know about.
Here’s the thing – there were at the height of the event four women in the room. One was me, a pilot with a middling interest in racing, one was the wife of one of the pilots who has supported her husband for years but doesn’t fly herself, one was a child who came with her father and counted his laps but did not fly herself (though was surely old enough to give it a go), and one was the girlfriend of a spectator who played on her phone for half the time.
Our community is fairly diverse as far as race is concerned, though it could certainly be better. We had five non-white members of our community in the room out of around 25. Two of those were spectators.
One of our group leaders yesterday commented on our turnout for our season opener. It was great – we ran out of chairs and tables. We had a grand old time. And I looked at him and said “WHERE ARE THE WOMEN?!” He said “Good luck.” I said, “There are PLENTY women at Microsoft just down the road, why don’t they fly?” He said “Because women don’t want to fly drones.”
I’ve spoken to a leader in the Tiny Whoop industry about this. He said he’s tried to teach women and men how to fly and women never seem interested and never care.
I spoke to a female commercial pilot about this and she was very interested in the idea of holding an all-female 5” race. I said “How much is your budget for flights?” She said, “None, but we surely have enough pilots in the area for a race, right?” I just sadly shook my head no. No we definitely do not. Worldwide, sure we definitely do, but in this area I couldn’t even think of one.
Part of the reason I created this organization was to help create a safe space for people who have an interest in racing to come, spectate and see what it’s all about, and give the drones a try at the end. Part of the reason I created this organization was to create a safe space for people who don’t feel welcome in rooms full of people who don’t look like them who are MUCH better than them. Part of the reason I created this organization is because it’s been two years and yesterday was the first time I felt safe being JUST REALLY BAD at racing.
I have a degree in music. I can kind of read web languages but don’t know how to code. The first time I picked up a soldering iron was two years ago when I tried to solder a camera onto a micro drone (and failed MISERABLY). I absolutely hate competition. Hate it. And I have performance anxiety so bad that I had to SWITCH CAREERS because of it.
Yet I still make an effort to come out and race. I suck really bad. I came in 12 out of 15 in the 1S group yesterday. But I’m getting better! I don’t practice enough to be great, but I can sit in that chair and show other women that it’s OKAY TO SUCK when you’re starting out. And if that’s how I can make an impact then GREAT.
We are located out of the Seattle area and we know there are plenty of technically minded, competitive women (and non-white people!) in this area. If a non-technical person who hates competition and hates being on stage can sit in that chair, then so can a technical person who likes competition who might actually have a chance of winning.
If this sounds like you, I encourage you to come to our next race as a spectator (or if you have a Tiny Whoop and know how to fly, join our community, sign up, and come beat me).