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  Position Report
by Dianne White
Flying It Forward
or the past 30 or so years, March 8 has been celebrated as International Women in Aviation day, which coincides with the day on which the first woman, Raymonde de
Laroche, earned a pilot’s license in 1910. The point is high- light and bring awareness to the achievements of women in all aviation career fields over the past century-plus of pow- ered flight. To coincide, Women in Aviation International hold its annual convention each March – this year, it’s March 5-7 in Orlando. The event hosts world-class speakers, job fairs, networking events and awards nearly $1 million in scholarships to women across the entire spectrum of avia- tion. In addition, there are hundreds of accomplished pilots and leaders walking the convention corridors – all there because they want to mentor the next generation.
Having been in aviation all my life, I’m thankful that I had the ultimate mentor – my mom, who was a pioneering pilot and businesswoman in
her own right. Beyond
her, I had a few great
bosses who mentored
me, as well as an in-
credibly supportive
spouse who also has
worked in aviation his entire
career. As parents of two daugh-
ters, we raised them to think
nothing is impossible if they are
willing to work for it, and no
doors have to be closed. As my
oldest pursues her Navy wings
of gold, she has opportunities
ahead that many past genera-
tions could only dream of.
  I often get asked, was it hard to get your start in aviation? My answer: probably, but I didn’t care and didn’t let the naysay- ers get in my way. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and did what it took to get it done. If that meant I had to work harder, show up earlier and leave later, and hold the quality of my work to a higher standard, I just did it.
Raymonde de Laroche, the first woman to earn a pilot's license (1910).
Recently, I had a conver- sation about this very topic with Tammie Jo Shults, the Southwest Airlines captain who was hailed for successfully landing her Boeing 737 after a catastroph- ic, uncontained engine failure at altitude caused an explosive de- compression. Looking back at her path to the left seat, she said she encountered plenty of obstacles in her pursuit of a naval aviation career. “I had a dad who treated me as an equal to my brothers, so I never geared my aspirations based on my gender. When I got to aviation officers’ candidate school, I was shocked, I had never encoun- tered those fences before.”
But while she encountered plenty of “friendly fire,” she too had a great mentor. Navy Captain Rosemary Mariner was in the first class of six women to earn their wings in the U.S. Navy. In addition, she was the first female military pilot to fly a tactical jet and the first to achieve command of an
Not that I wasn’t acutely aware of the gender dispar- ity in aviation in the late 1980s and 1990s. As a young professional woman, I clearly remember one particu- lar visit to a major general aviation manufacturer for a meeting and factory tour. I recall walking into the
operational aviation squadron. Lucky for Tammie Jo, she happened to be her skipper during her training. Rosemary sent Tammie Jo and one other female pilot to A-7 Corsair weapons school, which was before women were allowed to fly combat missions. “She saw it coming in the future, and
4 • TWIN & TURBINE / March 2020
administrative offices and gaping at “mahogany row” with the wood-paneled offices with male managers on one side and a row of low desks with female secretaries smartly dressed in skirts and suits lined up across from each office door. I could have sworn the year was 1955, not 1995. Except for the secretaries, I didn’t see a single skirt in engineering or flight ops. Where were they? Mostly in marketing, PR, interior design. A few were scattered on the manufactur- ing f loor as well.
Today, that mahogany row I encountered is pretty much gone. In that same company, there are numerous women in leadership positions, some running entire divisions of a multi-billion-dollar corporation. Yes, a few dinosaurs still exist, but their time is about as a new generation of leaders emerge who don’t see talent, skill and hard work defined along gender lines.

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