In this day and age, the presence of women in the aviation industry isn’t as rare as it may have been decades ago. Still, only about four percent of ATP-rated pilots are female, according to a 2012 AIN article. And the same report claims that the number of female mechanics is even less, with only two percent being women.
These numbers are improving, though, with the help of one major nonprofit organization: Women in Aviation, International.
History of WAI:
Women in Aviation, International was founded in 1990 by the organization’s current president, Dr. Peggy Chabrian. Dr. Chabrian is a pilot and flight instructor with over 2,000 hours. She began the organization while working for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona.
In 1990, Prescott became the first location for the Women in Aviation Conference, which started with about 150 attendees.
In 1994, Women in Aviation, International was formally incorporated as a nonprofit organization. Since then, the organization has grown tremendously. In 2012, the conference boasted about 3,300 participants from at least 12 countries.
- More than 8,000 members
- More than 100 corporate members
- Approximately 75 Chapters in the US, Canada, China, England, Germany, Nigeria and Switzerland
- About 10% of members are international members
- About 16% of members are students
- Members are men and women pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, dispatchers, air traffic controllers, airport employees, entrepreneurs, business owners, engineers, writers, educators, hobbyists and students, among others.
- Mentoring: One of WAI’s main focuses is mentoring. The value of mentoring, especially for women, is significant. WAI works to mentor through chapter and regional involvement, as well as the annual International Women in Aviation Conference.
- Networking: As many people know, networking is probably the best way to land a job in aviation, and WAI gives people the chance to do that at its regional and annual conferences. Networking is a crucial part of a career path for many, and it’s also a crucial part of the annual conference.
- Scholarships: Possibly the most impressive statistic for WAI is the amount of aviation scholarship money that’s awarded each year. At the annual conference in 2012, Women in Aviation, International combined with various companies and sponsors gave away almost $560,000 in scholarship money. Scholarships are available for pilots, maintainers, engineers, business aviation students, international students and many others.
- Online forums and job search resources: Member of WAI get access to an online members-only section of the website dedicated to job listings.
- Annual Conference: The annual conference is a big deal for WAI. It’s held at a different location each year and encompasses all of its goals, programs and membership benefits in one setting, with thousands of people. The annual International Women in Aviation Conference hosts members and non-members from all around the world. It includes networking, education sessions, industry chats, scholarship awards, guest speakers, job opportunities and an industry expo event.
- Local chapter events: Local chapters are smaller groups of WAI members that want to stay active in their own communities. These chapters volunteer, host their own events and generally encompass the overall goals and mission of WAI, International.
- Regional conferences: Regional conferences mimic the larger annual conference on a smaller scale.
- Aviation for Women magazine and monthly newsletters publications: Aviation for Women magazine is issued bimonthly.
- Outreach programs: WAI and its chapters engage in outreach programs that include educational resources such as an “Explore Aviation Fun Kit” and the “Girl Scout Merit Badge Kit” to reach out to younger generations.