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Women should Follow their Instinct, says Air and Space Law Expert, Rachel Pachoud

This is a part of blog series featuring Women Leaders on the occasion of International Women's Day 2022, and adds to our project Drones for Daughters - that inspires young girls for playing leadership roles in emerging technologies, aviation technologies and future of aerial mobility and bridging the gender gap in these industries.

Rachel Pachoud

Legal Expert in Air and Space Law


Tell us About You! What do you do and where are you from?

Hi, I am a legal expert in air and space law and in international business law. I am originally from France, but I have lived in various countries, including in Latin and North America.

What inspired you to do what you have been doing?

At one point of my life, I needed a change of environment. One of my good friends (who is a source of inspiration and motivation), gave me a nudge to make this a reality. I then met new friends who were running a flight school, and at some point, were urgently looking for someone to give technical English lessons and then to act as a simulator coordinator. I had no previous knowledge of aviation, and my friends told me that they would give me all the necessary documentation to help me. I learnt all the essential vocabulary and knowledge in Spanish and English in a fortnight, and while reading laws and regulations in order to send some of the pilots to flight simulator sessions in the USA, it occurred to me that I could go back to my legal background and specialize in aviation law. I searched online where I could study such a specialty and decided that my best option was to study in Canada. So, I applied and was accepted to McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law to study a Masters degree.

As a leader, what is the most important task that you have taken on your shoulders?

I think that it is sometimes hard, especially when you are a young woman, to prove your worth. People have a lot of prejudice against women, both when they are young (and deemed incompetent), or when they are ageing (and deemed either old-fashioned or “out-of-touch”). Women are very often judged on their appearance, not given the same work opportunities as men, and they unfortunately need to work harder than men despite being equally or more qualified. It is also harder for a woman leader to get the same recognition/wages as a man, due to cultural and unspoken biases.

What kind of ecosystem reforms do you see happening in the next few years that will favour a gender-balanced world?

I would love to see more flexibility in the work schedule and more remote working too. However, I still see a lot of resistance, and with the end of the COVID-19 restrictions, we can see that a lot of employers would like to go back to “the good old days”. I think that happy (and properly rested) employees are more productive than frustrated/tired ones, and if employers aspire to retain qualified/talented employees, then they also need to listen to them.

On this topic, I read recently, an article published in the ABA Journal about women in law firms, underlining that even if approximately the same number of men and women are entering law firms, there is still a disproportion of male partners, and women are exiting law firms at a much higher rate. Employers really need to listen more to their female employees and take into account their perspective to improve the service that they give to the clients.

This year's theme for International Women's Day is Break the Bias. So what is the most awkward, most uncomfortable bias that you faced and what do we do to change that?

There are so many biases. It is quite hard to comment on only one, but even in the most developed economies, some people still think that women are less knowledgeable and less reliable than men. When I was still a law student, someone in charge of the law bar exam made the comment that, even if law students were over 75% women at that time, they would take 50% of men “because men have more credibility than women in front of a judge”. I was really shocked to hear this kind of discourse from a legal professional. I also heard, from previous relationships, that I did “not need to study further” since I was “intelligent enough like that”… or that the interest of a job was “more important for a man than for a woman”…

We really need to teach, both girls and boys, from the earliest age and everywhere around the world, that there are no “jobs for men” and “jobs for women”. Jobs are for everybody with the attendant interest and skills for them. We really need to change the paradigm on this issue.

What's your message for millions of daughters out there who are waiting to get inspired by you?

My main message is: Do not get discouraged and follow your instinct! Many people will try to stop or berate you. Believe in yourself, and surround yourself with positive and supporting people. Do not hesitate to ask for help and guidance, and be confident to take on new challenges. Oh! And also think about your “transferable skills”, i.e. skills that you have from previous personal or work experience, and that you can use in your future job.

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