The future of women in aviation

Posted in: Aviation

group of professional women standingAs NASA Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir conclude the first all-women spacewalk, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) establishes the Women in Aviation Advisory Board, it’s evident that it’s an exciting time to be a woman in aviation! However, as noted by U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao, “Our nation is facing a shortage of pilots and aviation professionals; there are great opportunities in this sector, and we want to encourage more women to enter these exciting professions.”

Closing the gender gap matters

It is hoped that the creation and use of this new Advisory Board will be a critical step in helping advance the inclusion of women in the very diverse, aviation workforce. As explained in this recently published article, the objective of the Board is to provide independent advice and recommendations to the FAA in supporting women’s involvement in the aviation field. The Board will analyze industry trends, working with airlines, nonprofit organizations, and aviation and engineering associations to support women pursuing aviation careers. This includes efforts like expanding scholarship opportunities and enhancing training, mentorship, education and outreach programs for women within the aviation industry.

Why is it important to encourage more women to enter into these critical aviation job paths? To put it simply, women make up half of our world. The aviation industry cannot afford to miss out on the talent and brainpower of 50% of our population. Ignoring the gender gap in the industry is handicapping us unnecessarily. Furthermore, diversity, including gender diversity, is valuable for its own sake. Studies consistently show that organizations, industries, and sectors with more diversity are stronger, more innovative, and survive longer than those that are more homogenous. Homogeny actively discourages innovation and therefore longevity.

The aviation industry is facing a critical talent shortage. We need more pilots, mechanics, engineers, and many other professionals to enter the aviation profession pipeline for our industry to continue to prosper.

We can’t move forward playing by old rules

Mead & Hunt recently completed a study for the Airports Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) (ACRP Report 202) that focused on the development of aviation education opportunities to promote aviation careers and a general interest in the aviation industry. The report showed us that we need a pathway to create a cycle of engagement from an early age through employment in the industry. Then we can give back to continue the cycle, which will propel our industry forward.

We at Mead & Hunt are actively working to mitigate this issue in the aviation industry. Staff from our Lansing, Michigan office have participated as presenters and attendees in several Women in Aviation Great Lakes Chapter events. These have included Girls in Aviation Day and the chapter’s unique Women’s Aviation Career Symposium, now in its third year. This event has seen great success in attracting a variety of talent, from young women still in high school to women looking for career changes.

Within our own firm, we strive to reach out to more career fairs, foster female leaders, and develop a robust Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. First and foremost, having these conversations at all is where it all starts.

Stephanie Ward, AICP

About the Author

As an aviation planner and pilot, Stephanie Ward brings unique understanding to her projects, big and small. She is passionate about working with communities and airport sponsors to keep airports viable. When she isn’t traveling for work, she enjoys using her frequent flyer miles to explore the U.S.

Read more posts by Stephanie Ward, AICP

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