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Shaesta Waiz, Afghanistans first female certified civilian pilot and a recent graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, poses after arriving in Montreal, Canada, May 15, 2017 on the third leg of her round-the-world solo flight. (CATHERINE LEGAULT/AFP/Getty Images)

Flying high

Refugee pilot is flying around the world to promote women in STEM

By WITW Staff on June 26, 2017

Last month, a 29-year-old pilot named Shaesta Waiz departed on a solo flight around the world. The goal of her ambitious endeavor is to inspire young women and girls to consider careers in STEM.

NBC News profiled her in honor of last week’s Women in Engineering Day. Waiz was born in a refugee camp and emigrated from Afghanistan to the United States during the Soviet-Afghan War. Her family lived in a poor area of California, and Waiz “assumed … her next stop would be early marriage and motherhood,” according to the website of her non-profit organization Dreams Sonar. But thanks to “a series of positive inflection points,” she became the first person in her family to earn a college degree, and went on to become the world’s first female certified pilot from Afghanistan.

Women are often underrepresented in STEM fields generally, and in the aviation industry in particular. There are about 4,000 women pilots worldwide, making up just three percent of the total industry. “I want to inspire the next generation of female aviation professionals,” she told the CBC last year.

Over the course of 90 days, Waiz will make 30 stops in 18 countries, among them Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and India. You can track her progress on the Dreams Sonar website.

Read the full story at NBC News.


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