June 26, 2020

Fighter pilots, a rocket scientist, general aviation entrepreneurs and other leaders championed women carving out careers in the industry – with inspiring messages and concrete advice – during the 3rd Annual GA Leadership Forum on June 25. Hosted by the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA), the virtual forum featured more than 100 female speakers from around the world, encouraging attendees to seek leadership roles in general aviation.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao opened the forum with a message to “inspire a new generation of women and girls to pursue STEM education and access aviation opportunities.” She added that women make up nearly 25% of the FAA workforce and spoke of the newly formed Women in Aviation Advisory Board at the Department of Transportation (DOT), which will support women working in the industry.

NBAA’s Board of Directors and Advisory Council both have representation on the new DOT board, and a recent NBAA Flight Plan podcast focused on the two women’s perspectives, and plans for their service on the board.

At the IAWA forum, speakers presented on topics ranging from mentoring in a “new normal” during the COVID era, to building financial savvy, to leadership lessons from fighter jet cockpits. One panel provided real-life guidance to combatting bullying and sexual harassment.

How to Make It Real

On a diversity panel, NBAA’s Jo Damato, vice president of educational strategy and professional development, talked about managing a diverse team to create a better product.

Damato shared NBAA’s efforts to foster inclusion, including the launch of NBAA’s Innovation Committee several years ago. Asking “what if?” brings creativity to a group, she explained to the panel, using the equation “Diversity = Outstanding Performance. How to Make It Real.”

“It’s an empowering question,” said Damato. “It gives [people] ownership of an idea or thought, so they can bring their own background and perspective to solving a problem.”

Damato and other panelists also discussed work-life balance, including policy aspects, such as family leave. Damato said balancing family commitments with work is both an employer issue and a partner issue.

Finally, Damato encouraged attendees to be their own “authentic self.”

“It’s exhausting to try to be something you’re not. Diversity means embracing your authentic self, so don’t check [who you are] at the door,” she urged, adding diversity isn’t enough. Inclusion is the key. You have to be able to use your voice, not just be invited to the meeting.

Rene Banglesdorf, CEO of NBAA member company Charlie Bravo Aviation and a member of the new Women in Aviation Advisory Board, chaired the GA Leadership Forum.

It’s not too late to learn from and be inspired by the experts brought together for this virtual event. VIP passes allow participants to view the online content for up to three months.