So a while back I wondered, “Do we fly differently?” First, thank you to everyone who participated in the survey!
As promised, here are charts and graphs and numbers and some surprises.1
We asked three questions:
- I am a ☐ female – or – ☐male.
- I felt confident in my canopy-flying and -landing skills at jump #___. [Fill in the number.]
- I felt confident in my freefall skills at jump #___. [Fill in the number.]
We’ll start you off with the takeaways: the four TL;DR graphs.
First, answers to the canopy confidence question, grouped by male and female answers (click any graph to enlarge):
As I expected, females reported lower overall confidence than males did.
But then we get to freefall confidence:
What?! Women are confident in freefall earlier in their jumping careers than men are? Knock me over with a feather.
And now, differences in the males’ confidences in freefall and under canopy:
And female confidence:
“Confidence” is a very subjective term. I’m sure if we asked the exact same people the exact same questions again on a different day, they would answer differently. Confidence also doesn’t equal skill, obviously, and I wasn’t particularly interested in actual skill levels. I was interested in how people felt about their skill levels.
From our little (highly unscientific) survey, it seems that women are confident in freefall sooner than they are confident under canopy — but also sooner than men are! So there are two issues here: Proportionally lower female confidence in canopy skills and proportionally lower male confidence in freefall skills.
I have a few theories why, but I would really love to know what you all think, especially you instructors.
Do women function better in the structured world of AFF, where freefall is the emphasis, and therefore gain more confidence, and earlier? Is it because women are more easily coachable in freefall? Or is it because newbie women get invited on more jumps and have more free coaching offered to them? Are women more flexible and find it easier to arch into a good boxman? Are men more genetically suited to flying canopies and women to flying their bodies?
And, does any of this actually matter?
Nitty gritty details only numbers nerds will love
More charts and tables. Yippee!
The raw data (minus comments) is here if anyone would like to make their own charts or analyses: BSM-ConfidenceSurvey-2014-10-30 . Please let me know what you come up with!
Female membership in the U.S. Parachute Association2 is, on average, about 14% and so is our readership. It’s not surprising to me that a proportionally higher number of females responded to this survey, especially because it was about a gender issue. Personally, and with no data to back this claim up, I see females responding at proportionally higher rates than males do whenever we have surveys or discussions.
(Complete side note: Ever wonder why most of the articles in our magazine are written by women? I’m not discriminating against men; women contribute way more than 14% of our content. It’s just who shows up and participates.)
Raw chart of responses to the question, “I felt confident in my canopy-flying and -landing skills after about jump #___.” with some milestone jump numbers highlighted:
“I felt confident in my canopy-flying and landing skills after about jump #___.”
|Mode||50||200, “Not yet.”|
So on average, men felt confident around jumps 75-150ish, and women felt confident somewhere between 150 and 200ish. For me, the most interesting number there is the mode, the answer most reported. 29 males, or 14% of the males, responded that they felt confident under canopy at jump 50. The mode for females was jump 200 and “not yet,” both with 10 female (12%) responses.
Most people felt confident under canopy by jump 100. Let’s look closer at those people:
Woah. A not insignificant number of dudes were confident in their canopy skills at jump NUMBER ONE. Not a single female reported confidence with fewer than ten jumps.
“I felt confident in my freefall skills after about jump #___.”
So, males reported feeling confident in their freefall skills somewhere between 100 and 200 jumps; females felt confident between about 75 and 120.
And a bonus gif for anyone who’s stuck around this long, comparing canopy confidence to freefall confidence. Because gifs.
So after all that, what do you think?
1. Caveat: I am not a data scientist. I have mashed this data in obscene ways and presented it even worse. If you know what you’re doing and would be kind enough to offer me some guidance, please please do.