Airline pilot Sabrina Johnson (@ssabrinaleej) posted a TikTok that quickly went viral about how she was mistaken for a flight attendant just because she is a woman.
@sabrinaleej Its jarring to me because they work at an airport. You know what the pilot uniforms are 😭 #pilotsoftiktok #airlines #fyp #bruh ♬ Miss You (Sped Up Version) – _
In the short clip, the pilot appears to be sitting in her cockpit in her uniform with text overlay that explains the incident in question. It reads, “Gate agent looked me in the eye today asked if I was the flight attendant.” The airline pilot also adds that this is a “common occurrence.”
In the caption, Sabrina further explains that, “its jarring to me because they work at an airport. You know what the pilot uniforms are.”
Women have to put up with a lot in the workplace and this latest instance of a female pilot being mistaken for a flight attendant left viewers with plenty to say in the comments.
“Ask them if they are new and tell them you will explain how to differentiate the uniforms so they don’t embarrass themselves again,” one person offered.
“Do they not understand the epaulettes?!” another asked, to which Sabrina said, “That or they can’t believe it.”
Sabrina also posted a follow-up video to clarify she does not think being called a flight attendant is an insult in and of itself. But, she says, “it’s an insult when it’s used to try and put me down after all my hard work,” and she notes that is offensive to both, her and flight attendants.
Harvard Business Review terms this kind of behavior as “role incredulity,” a form of gender bias in which women are mistakenly assumed to be in a support role (in Sabrina’s case, a flight attendant), rather than in a leadership role stereotypically held by males (like a pilot).
When this happens, the report says women have to spend extra time and energy to assert their position and sometimes must even prove their role. Which is exactly what this female pilot had to do when someone assumed she was a flight attendant.
A number of women offered their own stories of when people assumed they weren’t in charge at their jobs because of their gender.
A Montreal-based attorney said, “When people walk into MY law firm they ask me if I’m the receptionist.”
“I’m the boss of a million dollar com[any, and one of my clients (!) said I shouldn’t be so arrogant because I was just an assistant,” shared another woman.
“I’m a software engineer and the amount of times men will assume I am a designer…” said a third.
When one person joked, “I would have said “naw fam I’m a ramp rat,” Sabrina responded with a short anecdote to further illustrate yet another way in which someone had made an assumption about her role on an aircraft, saying, “I had someone hand me their bag once.”
The Daily Dot reached out to Sabrina via Instagram direct message.