July 9, 2020

A candid online discussion, featured as part of the July 8 Corporate Jet Investor (CJI) Global 2020 virtual conference, examined how business aviation companies can become stronger through expanding their workforce and the diversity of their recruiting pool. That often involves acknowledging individual, and often unconscious, biases in order to move beyond them.

“One thing I consistently hear is, ‘We’re hiring for our flight department and we’re looking for the right fit,'” said Sierra Grimes, senior manager for registration at NBAA and founder of the association’s Young Professionals in Business Aviation group. “Let’s unpack a little bit behind what that means: when you say ‘the right fit’ [you mean] your comfort level, and your comfort level may not be that diverse candidate who can still do the job and bring that innovation to your company.”

“We all have unconscious biases and [need to] really figure out what it is that’s holding us back, and not propelling us forward,” added Shelley Svoren, senior business banking analyst and industry specialist for First Republic Bank. “It has to be an intentional thing that happens; it can’t just happen in a conversation in a backyard, it has to happen at a conversation in a boardroom, and there has to be a strategic plan around it.”

Panelists agreed such dedicated plans to expand workforce diversity in business aviation are necessary in order to move beyond the common perception of the industry as one favoring older, and predominantly white, males.

“I’m no spring chicken, but I’m often one of the younger people in the room because it’s the executives who are older in the industry, and more established in the industry, networking with one another,” added René Banglesdorf, co-founder and CEO of aircraft broker Charlie Bravo Aviation. “It’s really important to bring up-and-comers, people [with] leadership potential, to [those conversations] to learn more about the industry and to establish good relationships.”

Pamela Williams, human resources director with the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) and a 32-year veteran at FedEx, pointed to efforts at that company and others to deliberately expand the diversity of their workforces. However, “the unfortunate part is the diversity that’s out there is not as plentiful as we would like it to be.

“We need to build up this pool and be intentional about … bringing additional diverse candidates into the fold,” she emphasized. “We need to make the aerospace and the aviation industry look like the world in which we serve.”

View the panel discussion.