Delta Air Lines flew 120 girls from Salt Lake City, Utah, to NASA in Houston as part of an initiative to close the gender gap in aviation last week.
“We’re taking ownership to improve gender diversity by exposing girls at a young age and providing a pipeline so that 10 years from now, they will be the pilots in the Delta cockpit inspiring generations of women who follow,” said Beth Poole, general manager of pilot development at Delta, who helped begin the initiative in 2015.
FAA data from 2017 shows that women make up just over 7 percent of 609,306 pilots in the U.S., according to Women in Aviation, a nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of women in the industry.
Everyone involved in the plane’s takeoff, flight and landing — from pilots to ramp agents working on the ground — was a woman, the airline said.
The initiative first began in 2015 and has since brought 600 female students on its journey, according to Delta. The company’s goal is to “diversify a male-dominated industry and expose girls to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers at a young age.”
The girls also met Jeanette Epps, NASA astronaut and aerospace engineer, Delta said.
Delta’s initiative speaks to a broader problem in the aviation industry — one that’s been recognized by The International Civil Aviation Organization, a specialized UN Agency that provides a global forum for member states to adopt and implement international aviation standards.
At a keynote address at a Global Aviation Gender Summit in August 2018, ICAO secretary general Dr. Fang Liu had said that “air transport must address head-on why women are still underrepresented in the majority of the technical and executive positions in aviation.”
The International Institute for Sustainable Development, a Canadian research group, noted last year that almost 80 percent of flight attendants are female but “barely five percent of pilots are women, and the proportion of women in technical or leadership positions in aviation is even lower.