Episode 36: Next Generation: The Story of Jo Anne Marie Toral

By Joanna Bianca Dela Pena

From humble beginnings to perfect timing, the life of Jo Anne Marie Toral is one of the many stories that female pilots in the Philippines experience. She is grounded in values but is not afraid to reach for the skies.

Jo Anne is an A320/A321 First Officer for Cebu Pacific, an airline based in the Philippines. Being raised in a family with a notable aviation figure (her dad was a pilot!) it was no wonder that Jo Anne had dreams of becoming like her dad. Even back then there was an astounding ratio of the men-to-women pilot, a statistic that Jo Anne would not let diminish her fire.

Anne said reminisced about the moment she looked up at her father and asked if girls were allowed to be pilots, “He told me that the Airlines prefer male pilots and there were only 3 to 4 female pilots in their airline and this was around the 90s.”

…and that holds true until today. Sure the numbers are better but women are still underrepresented in aviation. Stereotypes and girls being boxed or molded for certain at an early age have really affected the way our society works.

“Girls don’t get exposed to the idea that they can be or do whatever they want to do when they grow up.”, Jo Anne said.

But like I said, that did not stop Jo Anne. After taking up B.S. in Nursing, she worked as a Cabin Crew for Philippine Airlines (PAL). While at PAL, Jo Anne went on a study leave to become a pilot. She studied at Alpha Aviation in Clark, Philippines for her flight training (Ab initio to A320 First Officer transition training).

Times are changing. We live in a generation where women are encouraged to be who they want to be, to reach for the skies, and that their choices are limitless. Jo Anne noted that from her experience “People have been accommodating to the idea that women can be a part of previously male-dominated industries.” Continuing down this path of encouragement and support, both from co-workers and family, there is no doubt that the aviation industry would be diverse, fair, and equal!

One great idea that Jo Anne told us on how to inspire more girls to enter (or even consider) a career in aviation is as simple as allowing girls who want a photo in the Flight deck together with you and encouraging them that they too can earn a seat in the Flight deck someday.

Now, Jo Anne has been part of the aviation industry for 11 years; from cabin crew to A320 First Officer. Truly an inspiration to all young girls out there. She has attributed a lot of her success to her hard work, commitment, and passion for aviation — and she especially mentioned timing.

Jo Anne is one of those people who you just know that the universe wanted to be in the aviation industry; with early childhood mentors, landing a job in cabin crew right off of college, and not waiting that long to be hired as a pilot after studying for 18 months. As Jo Anne said, “Timing is everything”.

When asked about the quote that continues to inspire her, Jo Anne pulled this excerpt from Invictus: “ I am the Master of my fate, I am the Captain of my soul.’’