International Women’s Day: Inspiring the Next Generation of Aviators
Airlines across the industry are making strides to hire more women, but at the executive level women make up only 3% of all airline CEOs, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
“This industry is obviously very challenged because you don’t have a lot of senior women at higher levels within the industry,” Joanna Geraghty, the president and COO of JetBlue Airways says.
However, Geraghty wants the industry to celebrate how far it’s come in recent years and set an example for future generations of women in aviation. In her role, she’s constantly looking for ways to improve gender parity.
“I don’t think there’s a silver bullet,” she says. “It starts from the bottom up. It starts from children. It starts at all levels of the organization to create a path for women and create a safe place for women and other candidates where they feel comfortable to express their opinions because there’s somebody that’s similar to you in a room. It’s amazing what the studies show around how much more comfortable people are about speaking up if they feel they have an ally in a room.”
Geraghty has been with JetBlue for 15 years and outlined the airline’s initiative to engage with and recruit more women, as well as tapping into the younger generation of aviators. Geraghty serves as board director of the JetBlue Foundation, which supports students from diverse backgrounds and invests in STEM education.
Representation and visibility is important: “If you get into a plane and you see two women flying an aircraft and you’re a little girl, that’s a really cool experience and we’ve had customers write in about that,” Geraghty says. “We had one customer that wrote to me personally that mentioned how her son, who is African American, got on a plane, had two African American pilots and how inspired he was by that. Kids remember those things.”
Representation and visibility are key to diversifying the aviation industry so that today’s kids can aspire to be tomorrow’s pilots, flight attendants and industry leaders.