“My father was posted to Hafizabad for work purposes, when I was a kid . I could hear the F-16s and what not flying in and out of the Hafizabad’s Air force air base all day, every day and that’s when I realized I wanted to be in the proximity of the planes for the rest of my life,” says Maria Shahzad, the only woman aeronautical engineer at Airblue, a private airline company in Pakistan.
After finishing her Fsc., Maria applied to be a part of the Pakistan Air force as a GD pilot. However, she could not make it on account of her short height. Maria did not let that deter her.
She says she had to be near the planes, no matter what so Maria applied to and was selected to the College of Aeronautical Engineering, Risalpur.
“The female to male ratio in my college was immensely alarming. There were hardly 30 women as compared to 730 male cadets. In my course, we were merely 4 girls and 30 boys. It’s just that not a lot of girls are aware of the fact that colleges like these exists. There is an Institute of Space and Technology in Islamabad as well but not a lot of people are aware of its presence,” told Maria.
After completing her education Maria started her career from Shaheen Airlines in 2007 and later on, joined Airblue almost three years, ago.
“During one of the job interviews, one of the panelists told me that he had taught his daughters medicine and similar mellow subjects and that I should do the same as this field is not for females.”
“He clearly told that he would not be willing to take me on board. However, I was lucky that the rest of the panelists liked me and I was eventually hired. He really pissed me off,” reminisces Maria.
“He made sure that I was perturbed and intimidated for as long as he stayed in the company. He would give me night shifts deliberately and it’s not like I had an issue with it for I was there to prove myself anyway but he would go out of his way to create troubles for me because I was a female and he did not approve of my career choices,” tells the wonderfully brave Maria.
Maria is currently working as the only female aeronautical engineer at Airblue.
“I had to hear things like “ye tou larki hai, chor kay bhag jaye gee” when I first joined. I had to work extra hard to prove that there wasn’t anything men do that I could not. In the beginning, they preferred to assign even my tasks to the boys but now that I have created my mark, it’s much easier,” continued Maria.
Amidst all the gender prejudices and what not, Maria’s family has supported her throughout and Maria believes the support helped her a whole lot as she fought with the world for her right to be who she has always wanted to be.
Cover Image via: Maria Shahzad