At The 2009 Women In Aviation Conference, Not All Are
By Gina Doughty
Pilots aren't getting all the press these days. At the 2009
Women in Aviation Conference, the Association for Women in Aviation
Maintenance (AWAM) had a non-stop stream of visitors to their
booth, and according to exhibitor Lynette Ashland, that shows no
sign of slowing down. "In this depressed economy, networking is
critical. When people are having a hard time finding jobs, they
look for people to network with; they look for sponsors."
AWAM is one of the few organizations to claim growth in the face
of economic decline.
AWAM's ties to the Women in Aviation Conference run
deep. The organizational meeting was held at the WAI
conference in 1996, and the founding board members and officers
were elected at the Dallas WAI conference the following year.
According to the FAA, women account for only 2.13 percent of all
non-pilot aviation jobs in the U.S. Ashland attributes lack
of outreach as one of the major reasons more women don't pursue
maintenance or other technical fields. To fill that lack, AWAM
provides a speaker's network where those who are interested in
promoting women in maintenance can engage a speaker or offer their
services as one. Members are also offered free job listings,
subscriptions to periodicals, discounts from certain vendors,
invitations to AWAM sponsored events, an electronic newsletter, and
the online forum and chatroom, which is currently open to the
public. Ashland states that AWAM also specializes in
assisting female maintenance technicians getting out of the
military in finding jobs in civilian aviation.
AWAM offers several scholarships to women interested in
maintenance, much of it funded by the sale of their merchandise.
Others are sponsored by major industry leaders like jetBlue,
Southwest and Pratt & Whitney. According to Ashland, many
companies were willing to offer scholarship funding for position
they need filled. "We just went to them and asked what they
wanted. A lot of them are realizing they need women in these
positions...They are really supportive."
Ashland earned her AMT eighteen years ago from Indian Hill
Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. She subsequently spent
eleven years as an AMT with Netjets, and is currently Chief
Inspector for Roberts Aviation. Lynette is a member of the board
for AWAM, and its ardent spokesperson. Originally on an
engineering track, she soon realized she wanted to be more hands-on
in her study of aviation.
"I kept saying, 'This is cool, but how does it really
work?' I switched to maintenance and haven't looked