The International Aviation Womens Association (IAWA) was established in 1988 when a group of women in the professional aviation industry realized the majority of the positions were filled by men and decided there was a need for women’s perspectives. Today’s members serve in airport operations, aerospace management, senior government roles, consulting, engineering, finance, and regulatory positions.
The organization currently represents 400 senior-level members, a 2,600 member worldwide network, 257 major companies, and 38 countries, according to a factsheet.
More than 100 women attended the organization’s Inaugural General Aviation Women’s Leadership Forum on January 25th at Atlantic Aviation’s hangar in Boca Raton, Florida. Keynote speakers included Shaesta Waiz, the first Afghan woman to receive her civilian’s license and a pilot who recently completed a round-the-world solo flight in a Beech Bonanza, and Lt. Col. Christine Mau, a retired USAF member and the first female pilot of the F-35 fighter jet, Aviation News reports.
The event featured panels such as “Women in Aviation: Drift, Fly, or be a Captain,” where five women with extensive aviation leadership experience shared their career successes and gave attendees advice for similar success. These panels alternated keynote speakers throughout both days. Sierra Grimes of the National Business Aviation Association moderated a small roundtable discussion, which closed the event.
Senator Susan Collins, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, wrote a congratulatory letter regarding the event and acknowledged how the IAWA recognizes invaluable contributions women have made to the field of aviation and helps them to stay strong in the aviation industry.
“I believe that women working in aviation have a unique, positive impact on our nation’s workforce, and I am hopeful that Congress will work to ensure they can continue to achieve success in supporting one of America’s most significant industries,” Collins wrote.
Collins also stated in her letter that despite women making up over 50 percent of the nation’s workforce, they remain underrepresented in the aviation industry, constituting only “two percent of airline mechanics, four percent of flight engineers, five percent of repairment, six percent of pilots, eighteen percent of flight dispatchers, and twenty-six percent of air traffic controllers.”
She hopes to correct this imbalance, introducing the Promoting Women in Aviation Workforce Act of 2017 to the Senate in December 2017 along with Senator Tammy Duckworth. The bill encourages the aviation industry to offer opportunities that could help women succeed in aviation careers, like pilot training, STEM education, recruitment, mentorship programs, and direction for the Federal Aviation Administration to create and manage a Women in Aviation Advisory Board, which would hold the industry accountable for the creation of these programs.
“Until now, general aviation has shirked intentional discussions about increasing women’s involvement in the industry. No more. We’ve put together an agenda filled with industry influencers to talk about how women can help avert the coming pilot and mechanic shortages and revitalize interest in our industry,” Banglesdorf said.
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