Small Operator Safety

Cultivating a Diverse Workplace

March 9, 2020

Encouraging diversity and inclusion in business aviation will help address the industry’s workforce shortage.

The U.S. workforce is experiencing significant demographic changes at the same time that business aviation is experiencing a growing shortage of pilots, maintenance technicians and other aviation professionals. How can the industry adapt to these changing demographics and create positive workplaces for all employees by encouraging diversity and inclusion?

“In short, diversity is about how to get people in the door; inclusion is how to keep the top talent once you have invested in those same people,” says Tracie Carwile, sales manager of ground transportation at Universal Weather, as well as the first African-American and youngest member of the board of directors for Women in Corporate Aviation.


Generation Z, those people born after 1996, are now entering the workforce, eager to make their impact. These younger workers have been raised in a more culturally diverse world, and when looking at potential employers, they are not just expecting diversity and inclusion – they are asking for it.

Considering business aviation’s continuing workforce shortage and the challenges inherent in retaining qualified aviation personnel, casting a wider recruiting net and ensuring company culture and policies lead to retention are critical to the industry’s growth.

The most immediate challenge is retaining current workers. Anecdotal evidence suggests many women who leave aviation believe that the industry is not family-friendly, explained Kimberly Perkins, an international captain and safety officer, founder of Aviation for Humanity and a gender equality activist.

“Much like soft skills and emotional intelligence are the welcome wave of the future for measuring talent, the industry must adopt another cultural shift, this time with a focus on family-friendly initiatives,” asserts Perkins. “Having a work/life balance isn’t a women’s issue – it’s everyone’s issue.”

“We need to stop rewarding the 70-hour work week and instead get more creative on how to work just as effectively but more efficiently,” continued Perkins, who sees teleworking, flex hours and variations in utilization as quality-of-life initiatives.

Cultivating a Diverse Workplace


A new working group of NBAA’s Business Aviation Management Committee will focus on promot-ing diversity and inclusion (D&I) in business aviation.

One of the group’s first goals is to create awareness about the need for diversity and inclusion in the workforce, explained Josh Mesinger, the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group’s chair and Mesinger Jet Sales vice president.

“Diversity and inclusion initiatives result in better outcomes for flight departments and businesses alike,” Mesinger said. “We also want to highlight the diversity that does exist in the industry.”

“This new working group demonstrates the commitment of NBAA and its members to attract and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce,” said Jo Damato, CAM, NBAA’s vice president of educational strategy and workforce development. “In order to address these issues successfully, we need to extend our reach through effective partnerships.”

A working group structure, rather than a subcommittee, was chosen intentionally, explained Damato, so members of all NBAA committees, as well as partners from other associations, can participate.


Diversity and inclusion are not just tools for attracting and retaining professionals; studies show that inclusive teams are more productive and effective than less-diverse teams. Two reports – McKinsey & Company’s “Delivering through Diversity” and Forbes’ “New Research: Diversity + Inclusion = Better Decision-Making” – back these claims.

For example, inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time. Teams that follow inclusive processes make decisions two times faster in half the meeting time. Also, there’s a positive correlation between diversity and financial returns.

In addition, a lack of diversity can create a perception of business aviation as being elitist. And a more-diverse work-force creates a bridge to clients of differ-ent backgrounds and ethnicities.


Experts in diversity and inclusion suggest leadership is key to encouraging inclusion, and support from leaders is needed to create the right culture.

Communication is critical. Sometimes a company’s initial challenge with inclusion is awareness – leaders may not know what their team members need to be productive and successful.

That is why leaders must be mindful of their team’s needs and be open to con-ducting conversations about diversity and inclusion. Leaders must engage to identify the needs, then work to collectively and proactively address them.

Mentoring programs can also foster inclusion. These programs help new employees feel like part of the team and learn the organization’s culture.

Perkins believes that company leaders must not only mentor employees, but they also must sponsor women and minorities to make impactful and lasting change throughout their organization and the industry.

“Truly great leaders empower their employees,” declared Perkins. “They encourage individuals to collaborate and be advocates for diversity, inclusivity and equality.”

“If your organization doesn’t have a mentoring program in place, consider partnering with an organization in the same space that is already doing similar work,” suggests Carwile.


Promoting diversity and inclusion isn’t solely the responsibility of leaders. Any business aviation professional can get involved by showing that inclusion is important to them and by advocating for those who might feel disenfranchised or unheard by the organization.
“Meet people where they are to better understand how their unique perspective can provide value,” suggests Carwile. Breakfast or coffee meetings can help people get to know each other and understand each other’s needs, which will organically extend to business initiatives, enabling increased collaboration and communication.

“Identify commonalities – that’s how we get to inclusion,” says Julius Ramos, an executive at FlightAware.

One of the first tasks is to counter stereotypes. Sometimes the targets of negative comments or jokes may be unwilling to challenge the person making such comments because the targets are new to the company, feel their job is threatened or are already disenfranchised in the organization. However, peers can challenge those who make inappropriate comments. A non-confrontational approach might be to ask why the person making the comments feels they are funny. Some people are unaware of the impact of their words. Suggesting that such language is inappropriate might be enough to stop it.

“You don’t need to be a minority to fight for equality. We need the majority (white men) to be our allies and stand up for all of us because it’s the right thing to do and it’s good for business. It’s the most effective way to move toward equality,” said Perkins.

“We need to empower people to be their authentic selves,” declared Ramos. “Not only is it the right thing to do, but inclusion is critical to the growth of business aviation.”


A Business Aviation Insider-sponsored session at this year’s Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference will delve deeper into the topic of diversity and inclusion.

On Friday, March 12 from 9 to 10:15 a.m., a session titled “Inclusion Drives the Future” will feature experts who will help participants understand and embrace cultural and societal differences, beliefs and values to increase cohesiveness at work. Review the full Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference program at