Nov. 15, 2018

Companies where people of all backgrounds feel they can attain leadership roles are more likely to succeed, Boeing executive Gena Lovett noted during a keynote address at Ohio State’s inaugural Conference on Diversity in Aviation, held earlier this month.

The conference, which was hosted by The Ohio State University Center for Aviation Studies, drew students and professionals from across the country for two days of candid discussions about the benefits and challenges of embracing inclusivity as a core company value. Representatives from NBAA attended the event as part of the association’s continuing focus on business aviation workforce development.

Lovett opened the event with a well-received keynote focused on the practical benefits of embracing inclusivity as a core company value, referencing a 2018 McKinsey & Company study that found companies with more culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams were 33 percent more likely to see better-than average profits.

“Bringing on diverse experiences is good for the bottom line, and as a businessperson that’s my focus,” said Lovett, who oversees production facilities across the country as Boeing vice president of manufacturing, safety and quality for defense, space and security.

She emphasized that forward-thinking companies not only embrace diversity in the hiring process by challenging unconscious biases, but also give employees of different backgrounds opportunities to rise into top leadership positions.

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance,” noted Lovett. “Once we get people of different backgrounds in, what are we doing with them? If we’re not giving them a seat at the table and letting them have a role in big decisions, we’re not asking them to dance – it has to be meaningful.”

Lovett’s speech set the tone for a broad array of education sessions, which included a Women in Aviation-led panel on ways to increase the number of women in aviation and a look at how stereotypes can subconsciously influence workforce actions and behaviors. In addition to Lovett, previous NBAA event speakers Shaesta Waiz and Barrington Irving were on hand to share their inspiring around-the-world flight stories, and Columbus Regional Airport Authority Director Shannetta Griffin discussed her experiences rising to the top of her profession as black female engineer.

Ohio State University Distinguished Fellow Nawal Taneja closed the conference with a global perspective on the aerospace industry, noting that the geographic center of worldwide aviation (by flight arrivals and departures) has shifted from Tampa in 1914 to over Pakistan today.

“This is one of the fastest-growing industries on earth,” Taneja advised students in attendance, encouraging them to take advantage of “fantastic opportunities” available to them.

Learn more about the Ohio State University Center for Aviation Studies.