While organizations are working to develop gender diversity within the aviation and aerospace industry, it is also essential that those women currently within the industry are highlighted to provide role models to other young women looking to enter the industry. We have women involved in and leading engineering, finance, human resources, sales, project management, and many other teams within the ACR Group.
Our group of companies, including SKYTRAC, Latitude Technologies, Flight Data Systems, FreeFlight Systems, ACR ARTEX, and NAL Research, is proud to support our female team members and leaders to make aviation safer and more efficient through a portfolio of leading technologies.
We recently celebrated Women in Aviation Week and Women’s History Month by reaching out to women from our group of companies to share their stories, insights, and advice to inspire young women to begin their careers within a traditionally male-dominated industry.
Here are some highlights from their stories.
Why is gender diversity within the industry important to you?
“I think gender, racial, ethnic, and disability diversity are important to any industry and any workplace. I think we are at a critical moment where we need to pay attention to the implicit biases produced in technology when development teams are not diverse. In 2019 Caroline Perez investigated biases across various industries in her book Invisible Women. For example, she reports on the auto industry’s lack of diversity in their crash test dummies, leading women to be more likely to suffer serious injuries in car crashes. I think there is a need for more consideration of our diverse users’ needs and the environmental impact of our technology. As developers of fundamental infrastructure, we have to be aware of the ramifications of our decisions and blind spots and our influence on society.” – Layanne Hazim, Junior Software Engineer at NAL Research. Read more.
“There are a couple of reasons that I consider it highly important. The first is simply a matter of equity or fairness; because women and other gender minorities have been discouraged from participating in highly technical fields in the past, there’s an opportunity to bring highly talented people into this industry and access their untapped potential! Besides that, it has been shown that having voices from various backgrounds and life experiences can lead to better decision-making.” – Rhiannon Tully-Barr, Software Engineer at SKYTRAC. Read more.
“At the end of the day, it can only help businesses no matter the industry. Diverse backgrounds provide varied perspectives, which helps us open our minds and come together, innovate, drive for better results, build appreciation, etc. It’s not just about gender diversity. It’s exposing oneself to different cultures, demographics, and generations. The best education I ever had was doing a trip around the world for a year. It was a life lesson that I carry with me to this day.” – Karolina May, Senior Human Resources Manager at SKYTRAC. Read more.
What are some valuable life lessons you have learned while working in aviation?
“I’ve learned a lot about listening, learning, and asking good questions while working in this industry. It might be surprising since I don’t have much direct contact with clients as a Software Engineer. Still, even with multiple layers of separation, I’ve learned how important it is to understand what people need deeply and then articulate it and seek feedback before writing any code. I think this is the lesson I’ve learned that’s the most widely applicable to life in general – seek to understand first, before acting.” – Rhiannon Tully-Barr, Software Engineer at SKYTRAC. Read more.
“It’s still early in my career, so my biggest lesson was figuring out how and where to start. When I looked at job listings, I would decide I wasn’t qualified. Then, I read that Hewlett Packard report that said men apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the qualifications, but women only apply if they meet 100% of them. After that, I applied to everything and took every interview I could.” – Layanne Hazim, Junior Software Engineer at NAL Research. Read more.
What has been the most challenging obstacle in your career journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?
“When working in Germany as a Deputy Chief of Engineer Customer Solutions for USA Public Health Command, my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. I was on a path to being the department chief in years to come, and I mastered every aspect of my job. I had to make the tough decision of leaving everything behind to be there for my little girl, who endured two and a half years of harsh treatment. I was back in the States, unemployed, sitting in a hospital watching my daughter fight every day for her life, so I decided to fight back with her. I enrolled back in college to do my MBA. I studied and wrote papers for two years while my daughter was getting endless drug infusions. I talked to her about what I was learning and not dwell on challenging times but rather always look at the opportunities in front of us and pursue them with perseverance. Today she is a healthy, bright, and thriving young lady, and my MBA helped me open doors, one of them here in the aviation community.” – Laura Perfetti, Program Manager at NAL Research. Read more.
Do you have a mentor or idol in aviation?
“As far as mentorship goes, I want to acknowledge my undergraduate advisor Dr. Nathalia Peixoto. She was an incredible resource that I definitely could and should have utilized better as a student. From history, I want to start with the first Arab and African woman to earn a pilot’s license, Lotfia El Nadi. Hedy Lamarr was an actress, mathematician, and inventor. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, Black mathematicians, and engineers at NASA, made essential contributions to the first manned space launch and were among the countless female human computers in history. Issam Nemer was an engineer who worked on the Apollo 11 launch. And, of course, the first woman in space, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova. I also want to acknowledge some of the incredible people I follow on Twitter. NASA Chief of Exploration Mission Planning Nujoud Merancy, NASA engineer Loay Elbasyouni, astrophysicist Sarafina Nance, astrobiologist Monica Vidaurri, and space archaeologist Alice Gorman who recently conducted the first archaeological experiment in space.” – Layanne Hazim, Junior Software Engineer at NAL Research. Read more.
“In my first Aviation position, I worked as a Technician in an Aircraft Engine Overhaul Shop. It was a small shop with only about 10-12 employees. Over half of them took me under their wing at one time or another. I owe so much to every one of them. When we went through downsizing and when I was on my last week, one of the people who worked in the office handed me a phone number and asked me to call it. Every day of that week, I was asked again and again to call it. Finally, on Thursday, I promised I would call before the end of the day. I called and set up an appointment. The following Monday, when I showed up for my interview, I was hired at ARTEX. I have been with the company ever since. She is why I have had a career here at ACR/ARTEX. I owe her most of all.” – Penny Sims, FAA Accountable Manager at ACR ARTEX. Read more.
What would you tell young females interested in joining the industry?
“From my experience, aviation is like most technical industries. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, meet people, and contribute to a quickly growing and evolving industry.” – Nicole Barby, Program Manager at SKYTRAC. Read more.
“If you are interested in this field, you must persevere in your dreams and leverage them to cultivate that interest. I will advise you to go to seminars and look for career paths that foster aviation. Acquire specific knowledge to bring something new to the table. As you progress in your career, I will advise seeking for mentors to help you along the way. It would help if you asked them to help you identify your strengths and weakness. You should also seek for people to help and share your experience with. I will advise you to read about concepts that seem complex to gain confidence while looking for the next step of your career path.” – Laura Perfetti, Program Manager at NAL Research. Read more.