Diversity in Aviation and Aerospace Industry Receives Attention in House Hearing

Diversity in Aviation and Aerospace Industry Receives Attention in House Hearing

July 23, 2021  | Caroline Marete

On Tuesday, July 20, the Subcommittee on Aviation of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing entitled, “Bridging the Gap: Improving Diversity and Inclusion in the U.S. Aviation Workforce,”  to discuss issues of diversity and inclusion in the aviation and aerospace industry workforce. Various underrepresented groups were represented by the witnesses, including people of color, veterans, and women in aviation. The following witness testified:

  • Rebecca (Becky) Lutte, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska at Omaha Aviation Institute
  • Claudia Zapata-Cardone, Executive Director of Community Relations and Outreach, Latino Pilots Association [No written testimony available]
  • Icema D. Gibbs, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, JetBlue Airways
  • Joel Webley, Chairman, Board of Directors, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals
  • Kyle J. Kaiser, President, VIPER Transitions

The hearing started with opening statements from the Subcommittee Chair Rep. Larsen (D-WA), Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), the ranking member of the Subcommittee, and Committee Chair Rep. DeFazio (D-OR). The leaders acknowledged the particular timeliness of the topic because of the significant impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the aviation and aerospace industry. In his opening statement, Larsen highlighted some of the recent initiatives aimed at increasing diversity in the aviation and aerospace industry. These initiatives include the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018 that includes provisions to increase recruitment of women and youth in aviation and aerospace careers, the FAA Women in Aviation Advisory Board established in 2020 that is tasked with exploring opportunities for education training, mentorship and recruitment of women to aviation careers, and the Aviation Workforce Development Grants announced in 2020.

Women in Aviation and Aerospace

Women are underrepresented in aviation and aerospace careers, especially in leadership positions, commercial pilots, and maintenance technicians. Currently, women represent approximately 5 percent of commercial pilots and 2.5 percent of aircraft technicians in the United States. According to Dr. Lutte, the numbers have not changed significantly over the years. In addition, women face barriers in pursuing careers in the aviation and aerospace industry. Difficulties in balancing the demands of aviation careers and family life, lack of mentorship, and the high costs of training are among the challenges that hinder entry and  career advancement for women in aviation and aerospace. To tackle these challenges, the panel suggested that industry stakeholders should deploy strategies for increasing participation of women in aviation and aerospace careers.

People of Color in Aviation

Zapata-Cardone shared her experience growing up with immigrant parents and her childhood dream of becoming an airline pilot. Through her personal career journey, Zapata-Cardone echoed the testimony of Dr. Lutte by highlighting the barriers women and minorities face when pursuing aviation and aerospace careers. Webley shed light on some of the programs undertaken by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, including youth and professional programs that contribute to diversity in the aerospace industry. Gibbs expounded on the revamped JetBlue Airways recruitment program and the airline’s efforts to make the aviation community more inclusive and more equitable.

Transitioning Veterans into Aviation and Aerospace Careers

Kaiser explained some of the challenges many veterans face once they return from service. Among the challenges is finding well-paying jobs. The aviation and aerospace industry can provide opportunities for veterans as they transition from their military careers. To emphasize the importance of helping veterans transition into the right careers, Kaiser said, “Thank you for your service is not enough. We need to do more.”

Recommendations for Increasing Diversity and Inclusion

There are many benefits to increasing diversity and inclusion in aviation and aerospace workforce. According to Dr. Lutte, diverse representation of thoughts results in enhanced safety, innovation, and profitability. Furthermore, to meet workforce needs of the growing aviation and aerospace industry, the industry will need to tap into a diverse pool of talented professionals. During the hearing several recommendations were mentioned that can help to increase diversity and inclusion in the aviation and aerospace industry, including:

  • Increasing data collection to show the trends in representation of different groups in the aviation workforce. One way to increase representation of women and other minority groups is to increase transparency by improving data collection to measure and track the trends of diversity initiatives over time.
  • Advocating for family-friendly policies, especially for women.
  • Partnering with advocacy groups such as the Organization for Black Aerospace Professionals, Latino Pilots Association, and others to create awareness on aviation and aerospace career opportunities.
  • Increasing youth outreach programs and partnering with training institutions to attract young people into aviation and aerospace careers.
  • Increasing access to financial aid and developing policies to reduce the cost of training, especially for pilot training.
  • Create awareness on the negative aviation culture that promotes gender biases and sexual harassment, and actively initiate strategies to promote positive culture.
  • Creating mentorship and advancement programs to increase awareness on aviation and aerospace careers and identify top talent especially among minority groups.
  • Increasing industry partnerships to support transitioning veterans into the aviation and aerospace industry workforce.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has shone light on the challenges of diversity and inclusion in the aviation and aerospace industry, many problems existed even before the pandemic. A 2019 Eno report examining the workforce challenges in the U.S. and the U.K. identified common themes on workforce challenges, many of which were mentioned in the hearing. These include pipeline challenges as the number of jobs increases with the industry growth, shifting work demographics as current employees are retiring, and competition with other industries for qualified professionals, among others. Nevertheless, despite the myriad diversity challenges that face the industry, Dr. Lutte noted that in over 30 years in the industry, the recent efforts to improve diversity in aviation and aerospace industry are the most comprehensive efforts she has observed. Webley also noted that as of this year, at least 77 percent of companies have a diversity and inclusion strategy or intend to put one in place. Based on the overall discussion from this hearing, the industry can be said to be heading in the right direction.

Share

Related Articles

Making the Case for a National Strategy for Advanced Aviation Platforms

Making the Case for a National Strategy for Advanced Aviation Platforms

Our national airspace is an artery for commerce, a key domain for national security and homeland defense, and, increasingly, a domain to...

Another Case for Increasing Participation of Women in Aviation

Another Case for Increasing Participation of Women in Aviation

The fact that the aviation industry lacks workforce diversity is old news. Various scholarly studies and industry reports have highlighted...

Nominations News: Senate Panel OK's FMCSA Head, MWAA Board Member; POTUS Makes STB Nominee; Sully Out at ICAO

Nominations News: Senate Panel OK's FMCSA Head, MWAA Board Member; POTUS Makes STB Nominee; Sully Out at ICAO

There was a smattering of transportation nomination news in Washington this week. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation...

Phil Washington Rumored for FAA Administrator

Phil Washington Rumored for FAA Administrator

Yesterday, the Seattle Times reported that Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington, the former head of the Los Angeles County mass...

Emission-Reducing Aviation Technologies Presented at House Hearing

Emission-Reducing Aviation Technologies Presented at House Hearing

This week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation met to discuss different aviation...

NTSB Asks for Funding & Personnel Increases, Expanded & Clarified Authorities at House Hearing

NTSB Asks for Funding & Personnel Increases, Expanded & Clarified Authorities at House Hearing

This week, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board came to Capitol Hill to give an update on the NTSB's current status and...

Biden Names Safety Chief Nolen Acting FAA Administrator

Biden Names Safety Chief Nolen Acting FAA Administrator

On Saturday, March 26, the Biden Administration announced that Billy Nolen has been named Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation...

Webinar: Eyes in the Skies: How The Ukrainian Crisis Affects Aviation

Webinar: Eyes in the Skies: How The Ukrainian Crisis Affects Aviation

The war in Ukraine has touched almost every corner of the world in almost as many ways. From parts availability to rising oil prices, it's...

Subcommittee Hearing Examines Community Concerns Regarding Aviation Noise

Subcommittee Hearing Examines Community Concerns Regarding Aviation Noise

This week, the House Transportation’s subcommittee on Aviation held a hearing entitled “Aviation Noise: Measuring Progress in...

Dickson Stepping Down as FAA Administrator

Dickson Stepping Down as FAA Administrator

Federal Aviation Administrator Steve Dickson told FAA employees in an email yesterday evening that he would be leaving his post on March...

Centennial Anthology: A Collection of Essays and Ideas

Centennial Anthology: A Collection of Essays and Ideas

Coming Out of the Crisis: A Look Past the Pandemic  The pandemic isn’t quite behind us, but every day the contours of the new normal...

Communication Breakdown: T&I Hearing Shows Differing Perspectives Between FAA and FCC on 5G and Aviation Safety

Communication Breakdown: T&I Hearing Shows Differing Perspectives Between FAA and FCC on 5G and Aviation Safety

Reminiscent of a certain Led Zeppelin song, all witnesses and Representatives agreed on the utter lack of communication and coordination...

Be Part of the Conversation
Sign up to receive news, events, publications, and course notifications.
No thanks