Small Operator Safety

Feb. 3, 2020

Career opportunities abound, says Dr. Peggy Chabrian.

Many women working in aviation today may not even know it, but there’s a good chance that Dr. Peggy Chabrian has – directly or indirectly – played a part in their path to an aviation career.

As the founder and long-time president and CEO of Women in Aviation International (WAI), Chabrian, an educator by training, has for 30 years of been the face of the organization, which provides networking, mentoring and scholarship opportunities. WAI has awarded more than $12.5 million in scholar-ships, and its current endowment is more than $1 million.

Chabrian, who recently retired from WAI, which now has 14,000 members, held the organization’s first annual conference in 1990.

“We had no idea how many people would show up,” she said. “That first year, we had about 200 people. Last year, we had more than 4,500 attendees and 170 exhibitors.”

For the past five years, WAI has held the annual Girls in Aviation Day, the most recent of which was attended by about 20,000 students at more than 100 events hosted by WAI chapters worldwide. The day-long event is designed to introduce girls ages 8 to 17 to the many aviation careers available.

Chabrian is justifiably proud of the empowering message of Girls in Aviation Day.

“For many girls who had not previously considered aviation as a career, Girls in Aviation Day is the first time they have been able to touch an airplane or even talk to a woman who is a pilot, engineer, maintenance technician or controller.”

Chabrian is quick to point out that WAI is not just for women, and that some of the best mentors – including hers – have been men.

“Men in aviation have been an important part of our success and have been very inclusive,” said Chabrian.

“It’s often been more a matter of cultural orientation and exposing girls and young women to aviation.”

Her advice to young women thinking about getting into the aviation industry: “Just start. Watch out for opportunities and act on them. The future is bright.”