The 2019 Women in Aviation International (WAI) Conference took place, March 14-16, at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, California. The conference marked two important milestones. The 30th Anniversary of the first conference, and the 25th Anniversary of WAI as a professional non-profit organization. Currently, WAI has more than 13,000 active members around the world and their scholarship program is the most successful in the aviation industry. Cheers to 30 Years!
ATP is committed to the aviation maintenance industry, and one of the reasons why I went to Long Beach to attend the Conference was to present the ATP scholarship to Stephanie Tarbous, a deserving candidate, pursuing the Airframe and Powerplant licenses. I was honoured to present the scholarship to Stephanie, her journey to pursue a career in aviation maintenance is inspirational, and she is a role model for girls and women who want to pursue careers in male dominated fields.
ATP was founded, by a woman, over 45 years ago, and has been a long-time supporter of Women in Aviation and the global aviation industry at large, with technology and services that promote safety and quality for maintenance operations. For the last 20 years, ATP Software Solutions has been at the forefront providing troubleshooting and defect trend analysis to engineers and service teams, promoting safety and reliability in aviation.
The 2019 WAI Conference had a splendid program with great keynote speakers. In special, I was touched by the powerful and inspiring presentations of Dr. Christine Darden and Capt. Tammie Jo Shults. Both of them addressed the important topics of persistence, defeating odds, and breaking barriers that took them on the path to a successful career in aviation.
Dr. Christine Darden is internationally recognized as an authority in the field of sonic boom minimization and holds the position of senior executive service at NASA. Capt. Tammie Jo Shults, after overcoming many obstacles due to her gender, became one of the first female F/A-18 Hornet pilots in the United States Navy. More recently her professionalism and expertise had been responsible for the successful landing of Southwest Flight 1380 that saved the lives of 143 passengers and was widely broadcasted by the media around the world.
One of the main highlights of the WAI Conference is the induction of women into WAI’s Pioneer Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees included: Leanne Caret, executive vice president of The Boeing Company who serves as president and CEO of Defense, Space and Security (BDS); Mary Golda Ross, the first known Native American female engineer, the first female engineer in the history of Lockheed, and one of the 40 founding engineers of Skunk Works; and The First Women of U.S. Coast Guard Aviation, nine women (three officers, and six enlisted), who were strong and independent, and paved the way for the successful acceptance of women into Coast Guard aviation.
The most powerful take-home message from the 2019 WAI Conference was that persistence counts. Being persistent has opened and continues to open doors for women in aviation and other male-dominated industries. Conferences such as WAI provide a forum for women to inspire and encourage other women and girls to be persistent in their career path showing them that there is a place for every woman in every industry.
Dr. Christine Darden has been noted saying: “I could have given up and stayed as a high school teacher, but my dream was pushing me to persist and take all of the math I could. That is what I did, and it paid off handsomely. And then it was the passion for the work itself that kept me pushing and going to school at GWU at the same time.”