AAR Launches Gender Equity Initiative in Miami

AAR is working toward increasing the representation of women in the aviation maintenance workforce through a new initiative at its Miami, Florida facility. The MRO has hired its first all-female cohort of aircraft maintenance technicians (AMT), which will participate in a research study led by the University of Nebraska Omaha and the Department of Transportation’s Women in Aviation Task Force to investigate how to make aviation maintenance career paths more attainable and inviting to women.

The initiative is part of AAR’s work with the nonprofit Corporation for Skilled Workforce (CSW) and funded by a grant from Lumina Foundation, which was announced in August 2020. AAR recruited approximately half of the all-female cohort from its EAGLE Career Pathway Program partner the Aviation Institute of Maintenance and used other typical workforce recruiting channels to find the other half. The group has been teamed up with women already working in technical positions at AAR’s Miami facility and began conducting focus group meetings in February 2021.

“Women represent in aviation maintenance just 2.4% of aviation population, and we felt as part of this grant that this was an opportunity for AAR to really take the lead and look at how we as an organization can support women in aviation maintenance, how we can get more women to see aviation maintenance as a career path and how the industry can do a better job,” says Ryan Goertzen, AAR’s vice president of workforce development.

According to Brian Sartain, AAR’s senior vice president of repair and engineering services, the initiative aspires to figure out what it will take to make women more comfortable in a career where they are drastically underrepresented while also looking into how better representation affects workforce morale.

AAR's all female AMT cohort in Miami
Credit: AAR
AAR's all-female cohort in Miami, Florida.

“Part of the concept is the basic fundamental hypothesis that if we created an environment where we had an all-female or substantially female crew, would that change the environment in the hangar?” notes Sartain. “Is a male-dominated environment part of the reason that women don’t come into the career path, because they just don’t see women in that career path? And if we could put women in a visible place in that career path, would we see more women join the workforce?”

AAR is modeling the initiative’s focus groups on an internal resource group for women called Ascend, which has typically been geared more toward women working in the office environment. Sartain says initial meetings have already indicated that seeing representation in the hangar and providing a support network have made a difference for women in the cohort.

The initiative’s research component is scheduled to last through October, but the all-female AMT crew will stay on as permanent employees. Goertzen says AAR plans to apply lessons learned from the initiative to its other facilities, with the potential to expand the program to other AAR locations with the help of CSW.

AAR’s EAGLE Career Pathways program standards were also recently approved by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Division, giving the program official national recognition as a nationally registered apprenticeship. According to Goertzen, one major benefit of this recognition will play into its workforce efforts focused on integrating veterans that are exiting the military. Veterans enrolled in AAR’s apprenticeship program will be able to use their military housing benefits throughout the 2.5 year program.

“For a place like Miami, that’s an extra $2,300 a month in benefits that help the veteran with housing while they’re in the program,” says Goertzen, adding that the housing stipend will provide an extra incentive when recruiting workforce.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for AviationWeek.com, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.