Even as the aviation industry grows at its fastest pace—28 percent in an average year in India—and orders for aircraft are at a high for the next five years, there is concern that growth could shrink if skill shortages are left unaddressed in the industry. Lockheed Martin India, known for its Innovation Growth Program launched in 2007, is playing a dominant role in encouraging girls from 15- to 18-years-of-age to consider jobs in aviation when making career choices.
A recent event to encourage women to contribute their skills in the field of aviation was held jointly by Lockheed Martin, Women in Aviation International (WAI) India and Airports Authority of India at the Indian Navy’s airport in Visakhapatnam, south India, with reinforcement from the state government presently tapping companies to set up aerospace parks for manufacturing and training. Around 50 girls from schools were invited to check out the airport, air traffic control tower and maintenance of aircraft as part of the “Girls in Aviation” initiative.
Lockheed Martin (Chalet CS01) has a woman at the helm—chairwoman, president and CEO Marillyn Hewson—and “has a diverse workforce in every sense; and our objective is to substantially raise the percentage of women employees in India,” said Phil Shaw, CEO, Lockheed Martin India. He said the company is proud to collaborate with those having a similar mindset and a mutual interest in developing the next generation of engineers, technologists, aviators, and scientists. “In this way, we can unlock the full national potential, underpinning the Government of India’s Skills India initiative.” Radha Bhatia, president WAI India chapter, added, “We aim to empower girls with the requisite skill sets to take up aviation as a viable career option.”
In the past, aviation has not been a preferred career for women in India, due to lack of awareness and mindsets. Interestingly, a recent effort to promote 51 percent of the invisible workforce—women—by the present government is now opening avenues. All the girls invited by WAI India to 10 events held last year throughout the country had one thing in common: none had been inside an airport before. “We never thought aviation had a role in every career one can think of, before this,” said Anita, a pupil, who wanted to be an architect and has now decided she would like to design airports. Renu, another student, said she dreams of becoming an electronics engineer. “I’d love to dabble with all the systems in the cockpit and maybe even design a new cockpit display," she said.
WAI founder member and Air India’s third woman captain now flying the 787, Nivedita Bhasin, told the girls that discipline, passion, and determination are necessary to break the glass ceiling. “The going is not always smooth, but it is totally worth it when you soar the skies.”
The concept of Girls in Aviation was launched last year by the Indian chapter of the U.S.-based WAI and Lockheed Martin India, when more than 100 school girls were introduced to skills in aviation starting with the most basic opportunities available—from loaders and ground handlers to careers in engineering, electronics, and serving as crewmembers, including pilots. “The response was awe-inspiring,” said Bhatia.