New Nonprofit Seeks to Advance Aviation Industry Gender Parity

Credit: Sergii Khalepa/Aviation Week

There are many organizations and corporate initiatives devoted to attracting women to aviation careers and supporting those already working within the industry, but a newly launched nonprofit is seeking to bridge the gap between these efforts and the slow progress aviation has achieved on gender parity.

Aviation Women Inspiring Next Generation (A-WING) formed in 2020 and officially launched its memberships for students, individuals and companies in April 2021. The nonprofit is seeking to both increase transparency about gender diversity at aviation companies and to connect women job seekers with companies that are actively looking to interview and hire more women candidates.

According to Mary Wanke, president of A-WING, the nonprofit’s goal isn’t to replace or compete with existing women-focused aviation organizations, but to help truly move the needle on gender parity. “We hope to be the glue that brings all of this together so that those few pieces that seem to be missing to move the needle can be filled in,” she says. “If we all keep working as siloes, it’s not going to happen.”

One of A-WING’s major initiatives is called We Report, which seeks to collect data from aviation companies that can be shared industry-wide to get a truer picture of how many women are working in aviation. In addition to creating greater transparency, A-WING will be organizing educational events, internships, mentorships, scholarships and job boards as part of its mission to see women comprise 25% of aviation and aerospace roles by 2025.

While the nonprofit is focused on careers within all segments of aviation and all departments at aviation companies, its first major job fair efforts took place at MRO Americas in April. The A-WING “JobfAIR” connected job seekers with aviation companies at the show through both in-person and virtual interviews. Wanke says A-WING hopes these efforts can be amplified at future MRO Americas shows, particularly when the Aerospace Maintenance Competition resumes so that competitors can connect with companies that are hiring.

“In the MRO world we talk about culture being quality, price and turn time, and that’s where your competitive difference is. This is part of that because it’s going to take a cultural shift,” says Wanke. “It’s not just about what we are doing for scholarship money for people in certain groups, but also about whether we are taking and recruiting from these groups. Where are we going to reach them? And how are we making sure that our full pool of applicants is a mixed pool so that we always hire the best person for the job and have equal seats at the table?”

This year, Wanke says A-WING is hoping to grow its memberships and corporate sponsorships to help it “move the needle and make that impact.” She adds that the nonprofit felt momentum in the right direction at MRO Americas. “The time seems to be right for people to want this, and we hope that continues and that people of all organizations that already exist will be willing to collaborate with us, because we really think that’s the missing piece.”

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, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.