Oct. 19, 2022

While business aviation can be incredibly creative, the industry is woefully behind other STEM industries in recruiting women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community, said Jennifer Pickerel of Aviation Personnel International, who moderated a panel discussion at the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) titled, “Tough Topics, Honest Conversations.”

“If not now, when? We are literally in the middle of a workforce crisis,” Pickerel asked session attendees, emphasizing the need for these important conversations in the business aviation industry. She introduced the panelists and asked them to describe their “why” for being committed to this effort before discussing real-life scenarios around DE&I.

FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims shared his experiences as a 17-year-old intern at the Department of Transportation in government affairs, where he began his commitment to advocating for diversity in leadership roles and in aviation.

Anne Palmer, of Palmer Group LLC, a founding board member of RedTail Flight Academy and daughter of a Tuskegee Airman, explained her “why” for doing DE&I work, which was a childhood lesson from her parents: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

Retired U.S. Navy veteran Kenneth E. Morris, executive director of the Aviation Community Foundation and director of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals Aerospace Career Education Academy, said, “I’m not here because I’m a Black pilot. I’m also a veteran. We aren’t just talking about Black people, Hispanic people or females,” crediting mentorship for his success and his ability now to give back to others.

Panelists addressed a question in which a person of faith, who believes homosexuality is a sin, is uncomfortable with a new team member who is gay. The questioner asked if their comfort also should be considered.

Palmer explained life isn’t meant to be comfortable. “A byproduct of growth is discomfort and personal belief systems sometimes must take a back seat in a professional situation,” she said.

The opportunity for growth is in finding common ground, which can be as simple as listening to people and their experiences, said Tracie Carwile of Convey Consulting LLC.

Another scenario that was posed by attendees centered around two team members from underrepresented groups who were new to an organization. While some in the organization are open-minded and accepting, others are uncomfortable.

The only way people are going to understand each other and work with each other is to be able to come together as team members and respect each other, Mims said. He encouraged the attendees to get the two groups together to discuss their feelings and their common goals in the organization.

“You do not have to be a manager to be a leader,” said Carwile, urging attendees to “identify gaps in communication and take the opportunity to lead from where you are.”

Review NBAA’s DEsI resources.

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