The relatively small percentage of women in the aviation workplace has captured the attention of U.S. lawmakers, with separate measures offered in the House and Senate to address the issue. Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) late last month jointly introduced the Promoting Women in the Aviation Workforce Act of 2017, which urges industry to “explore all opportunities, including pilot training, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, and mentorship programs, to encourage and support female students and aviators to pursue a career in aviation.”
It further directs the FAA to establish a women in aviation board to support organizations and efforts to foster women's careers in aviation. The bill notes that women account for more than 50 percent of the national workforce, “but are significantly underrepresented in the aviation industry.” According to bill language, women represent just 2 percent of airline mechanics, 4 percent of engineers, 5 percent of repairmen, 26 percent of air traffic controllers, 18 percent of flight dispatchers, and 6 percent of pilots.
The bill specifically acknowledges programs such as Women in Aviation International’s (WAI) Girls in Aviation Day for helping introduce young women to different opportunities in the industry.
Separately, the House last month approved by a vote of 409-17 the Women in Aerospace Act, designed to further open fellowship and grant opportunities to women from agencies such as NASA and the National Science Foundation. The bill further directs NASA to institute a process that prioritizes promotion and recruitment of qualified women, or others who are historically underrepresented in STEM fields.
WAI recently highlighted both measures in a notice from Dr. Peggy Chabrian, president of the organization.