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Encouraging More Women to Enter Aviation

Kate Fraser is Joby Aviation’s head of safety. Previously, she was Uber’s head of aviation policy, working with regulators and policymakers to make advanced air mobility a reality.

Fraser spent three years with the FAA’s Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention, representing the U.S. and the Commercial Aviation Safety Team in Europe and South America. She also was program manager of the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee, which helped reduce the GA accident rate substantially. Fraser also worked in the FAA’s Office of Government and Industry Affairs, engaging with legislators. Prior to that, she worked for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association as director of safety.

A commercial pilot and CFI, Fraser holds a B.S. in aeronautical technology from Kansas State and a master’s of human factors in aerospace from Embry-Riddle. In 2019, she was honored as one of the NBAA Business Aviation Top 40 Under 40.

Kriya Shortt is Textron Aviation’s senior vp of parts and programs. She also serves as president of Able Aerospace, an aircraft component repair and overhaul business, and McCauley Propeller Systems.

Shortt began her career with Cessna in 1996 as a part of the customer service organization. In 2003, she became a customer account manager, assisting the European sales team. Soon afterwards she was promoted to area sales manager for Citations in Arizona and California, and then assumed the role of regional vp of sales for the Southwestern U.S. Shortt later served as vp of sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa, before joining the executive team as senior vp of sales and marketing.

Shortt has a bachelor’s degree in French from the College of the Ozarks and an MBA from Webster University. She is a graduate of Textron’s Executive Leadership Program and currently serves as a member of NBAA’s Leadership and Advisory Councils.

Kate Fraser and Kriya Shortt are two business aviation representatives on the FAA’s Women in Aviation Advisory Board (WIAAB). The board’s objective is to develop and provide independent recommendations and strategies to the agency so it can explore opportunities to encourage girls and young women to pursue careers in aviation.

Q: According to the most recent data, only about 6% of all pilots and 2.5% of maintenance technicians are women. What do you think the WIAAB can do differently than previous initiatives to attract more women to aviation?

Fraser: I think it’s imperative that we take a good, hard look at our industry. There’s a reason that our numbers have been stagnant for so long, and if we aren’t willing to do the work, look at the data, address the root causes and commit to substantial changes, we won’t move the needle. This initiative is different because it has the right people to commit to this hard work and to have these tough conversations. We’ll never improve if we aren’t willing to go through some uncomfortable changes.

Additionally, I’ve found already that the board is doing an exceptional job of being collaborative. We have a limited amount of time to positively effect change, and it’s very apparent that everyone on the board is fully committed to the cause.

Shortt: I think it’s fair to say that the desire to see more women in our industry is not new. Still, despite the efforts of many great individuals, companies and organizations, we simply haven’t been able to move the needle substantially. One of the most impactful aspects of WIAAB is the support it has from Congress and the FAA. There is momentum at the national level, which creates visibility and a sense of urgency. This is an opportunity to put a stake in the ground and say, “We need to see a shift.”

The advisory board’s size and scope also help make sure this is impactful for the next generation of women. The WIAAB is composed of a fantastic group of professionals from across the industry who all bring expertise and insights to the table to ensure we’re addressing the challenges head-on: from identifying why previous recruitment efforts have not yielded the desired outcomes, to ensuring that once we attract more women to our industry, they have the tools and environment necessary to enjoy a rich and rewarding career.

“One reason I’m so passionate about this board is because I want to ensure that no girl or woman – no person – ever feels unwelcome in our industry.”

Kate Fraser Head of Safety, Joby Aviation

Q: Business aviation is a rewarding but little known or understood career choice for women. How do you plan to raise awareness of our industry, and what specific initiatives do you plan to champion as part of the board’s work?

Fraser: The specific working group I have the pleasure of participating in is tasked with looking at success stories and how we can highlight women in the industry, identify successful youth and engagement programs, develop local and national partners, and explore creative ways to show how incredible the aviation industry is. We’ve already had several opportunities to dive into what successful programs look like, how we can expand our reach, how we can highlight different sectors of aviation, etc. Of course, business aviation features prominently in these efforts, and I’m personally excited to hone in on the incredible work of NBAA and other industry entities.

Shortt: I’m eager to share my experiences as a business aviation professional with women and girls who may be unfamiliar with this sector. While we have made great strides in increasing diversity in many support functions, we still have a long way to go to build a diverse talent pipeline in traditional and technical areas, such as engineering, pilots and maintenance.

A variety of organizations are successfully supporting girls in aviation awareness and STEM activities, like Young Eagles, Girl Scouts and the Society of Women Engineers. In our own communities, we partner with local and educational organizations to develop aviation pathways in high schools, or classes that students can enroll in alongside their other courses. Many of these students and their teachers participate in our internship or adult “externship” program, which is designed for teachers, parents or advocates to learn about the career opportunities in aviation.

These groups play a vital role in engaging girls with exciting, age-appropriate activities. Yet, in many communities, advocates feel like they’re on their own, or must create a program from scratch.

My goal is to bring these fantastic resources and advocates together to recognize and share best practices so that girls, parents and educators can easily see and understand our industry’s opportunities.

By drawing on the expertise and lessons learned from these impactful organizations, we can connect grassroots efforts and make a solid recommendation to the FAA.

“The WIAAB is composed of a fantastic group of professionals from across the industry who all bring expertise and insights to the table to ensure we're addressing the challenges head-on.”

Kriya Shortt Senior Vice President, Parts and Programs, Textron Aviation

Q: You both hold influential GA posts. What are the takeaways from your own careers that you will share with the board, girls and young women?

Fraser: One reason I’m so passionate about this board is because I want to ensure that no girl or woman – no person – ever feels unwelcome in our industry. It’s so important that we work to make this industry a welcoming place for all people. Not only can we help solve personnel shortages by bringing in a broader group of people, but we can improve our own companies. Studies have shown that diverse companies are successful companies. We need more diverse pilots, mechanics, engineers, dispatchers, technicians and more. In addition to the work of this board, it’s imperative that we highlight the career opportunities, the unique and exciting roles, and the fascinating missions and people of business aviation.

Shortt: Don’t be afraid to take risks, as they always provide a learning opportunity, regardless of the end result. When stating your objectives, be bold and confident. Then work hard. Lastly, as you achieve within your career, make sure you pay it forward and support those who are entering the industry. Be a strong role model and mentor.

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