Since its embryonic foundation in 1990, when 150 delegates attended the first International Women in Aviation conference in Prescott, Arizona, WIAI has expanded rapidly and now boasts more than 14,000 members across the globe. Representing the interests of astronauts, commercial and military pilots, air traffic controllers, maintenance technicians, airport managers and business owners as well as many others, the organisation provides resources and support for women working in aviation.

How did you become interested in aviation?

I fell in love with aviation while studying to become an elementary school teacher. Having met a pilot and aircraft owner who volunteered to take me up, I decided to switch colleges and courses and ended up majoring in aviation management. The only thing that prevented me from entering the world of commercial aviation during the 1970s was the airlines' strict requirements on pilots' eyesight. However, as I developed my flying experience I realised that women throughout the aviation industry were under-represented.

How did Women in Aviation, International come into being?

It was the result of popular demand. After our first International Women in Aviation Conference in 1990 the event continued to expand over the following few years, and we were receiving lots of enquiries during the conferences of the early 1990s as to how attendees could "join our organisation". At the time, there was no organisation, so in 1994 the WIAI was formed.

What are the aims of the WIAI?

Since the dawn of aviation women have made a vital contribution to the development of the industry just consider the contribution of people such as Amelia Earhart. As society has changed, so has the role of women within the sector, but it remains a fact that according to the Federal Aviation Administration, of the 700,000 active pilots in the USA less than 6% are women. Across the wider industry, just over 2% of non-pilot aviation roles are filled by women. WIAI aims to encourage women to consider a job in the industry and we work closely alongside educators to promote aviation as a fantastic career for young women still in school and college. Since 1995 we have been providing educational scholarships to assist women in pursuing an aviation career - in the past year alone we've awarded 63 scholarships totalling $450,000.

How international is WIAI?

At our recent conference in Orlando, Florida in February, we had 13 different nationalities represented at the event. We have also just established our first European chapter and are making a conscious effort to increase our presence in the European marketplace. For the past two years we have held our Aviation and Women in Europe Conference in Italy, but this year the event is moving to Gatwick, London. It's a three-day event, from 14-16 September, providing attendees with a chance to network and hear from high-profile women in European aviation.

Speakers include triple round-the-world helicopter pilot Jennifer Murray Gretchen Burrett, the first female director of safety at the UK's National Air Traffic Services and Judith Moreton, managing director of Bombardier Skyjet International. We're looking forward to a successful conference and expanding the level of support we can provide women outside the USA over the coming years.

Source: Flight International