Captain Deborah Lawrie has opened a bridge at Sydney airport that has been named in her honour in recognition of her trailblazing achievements as a woman in the aviation industry.
More than 40 years ago, Lawrie fought and won a landmark sex discrimination case that allowed to her to work as a pilot at the commercial airline Ansett. She became the first Australian woman to work as a commercial pilot.
The NSW government will soon open the Deborah Lawrie Flyover, named after Lawrie, at Sydney airport. As reported by the ABC, it stands partially above a road that is named after the man who initally refused to hire her at Ansett because she was a woman.
In the late 1970s, Ansett had not hired Deborah Lawrie to work as a pilot even though she been flying since she was 16 and by all accounts was qualified to do the job. She had high test scores and had outperfromed other candidates. The selection panel justified her rejection for the job because she was young, potentially about to be married, and could soon become pregnant.
Lawrie took the airline to court, where she won a discrimination case and then became Ansett’s first female pilot.
“It’s difficult to find words to explain how excited I feel about this,” Lawrie said at the flyover’s opening this week.
“The flyover itself is a masterpiece of engineering and the Aboriginal artwork titled Following the Glistening Sun is truly inspirational. From a pilot’s perspective it reminds me of a gentle, sweeping descending turn onto a final approach for landing.”
Over her nearly 50 years in the aviation industry, Lawrie said she had witnessed many improvements for women looking to become pilots.
“My granddaughter, who’s only 19 months old…aviation is in the family and it feels great to know that one day she will see this structure as a great honour to her grandmother,” Lawrie said.
“The industry has changed so much over the last 50 years and today there are many more opportunities for women. There’s still a lot of work to do though and I’ll continue to advocate for women in aviation.”
Lawrie continues to work as a pilot for Virgin and is widely regarded as a role model for women in the industry. She was appointed a member of the Order of Australia in 2001 and has been inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame.
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