Our artisans of flight span many roles and we believe in strength through diversity on all fronts. On this Women’s Equality Day, we spotlight just a few of our many incredible women in aviation.
Learn more about these inspiring women, what drew them to aviation and how they support each other:
Vivien Cordero, Safety and Compliance Manager, Manila
I’ve spent my entire career in a male dominated industry, beginning with the Philippine Air Force as an MD-520 helicopter Crew Chief and progressing to Quality Inspector. To pursue my passion in aviation, I decided to join the Civilian aviation sector after nearly 25 years in service, starting as an Assistant Planner. From maintenance planning, I took the opportunity to move to the Quality Department, working up to my current position as Safety & Compliance Manager at Jet Aviation Manila. It may sound cliché, but it was my curiosity about how aircraft fly that drove me to join the world of aviation.
It was not an easy journey, especially as a servicewoman in our country. During those years, the Filipino culture was very conservative, relegating female soldiers to just administrative roles and assignments. Luckily, the Squadron Commander of a newly organized unit saw something in this female soldier and brought me into his aircraft maintenance team. There I learned that being a part of the team is one thing but that being accepted is another. To be recognized, I needed to enhance my skills, trainings, and hands-on experience — skill enrichment is what I focused on that time, and it proved worthy. My experience in aviation maintenance coupled with my knowledge of aviation regulations are what got me to where I am today, proving to myself, and everyone else, that women are perfectly capable of holding a place in aviation.
To all women out there with professional ambitions, stay focused and positive. You will be criticized. Some will put you down, others will be doubtful of your skill, but do not be swayed. Determination is the key. I share a quote from Dorothy Height which continues to inspire me – “Greatness is not measured by what we accomplished, but the opposition we overcome to reach a goal.”
Libby Van Der Westhuizen – ENG/AF LAME BWC PC-21 Program, Pearce, Australia
Growing up, my pop loved aircraft and spent a lot of time on his flight sim. Because of this, I became fascinated with airplanes, and also began building models. For my fourteenth birthday, my friends gifted me a flight, and soon after, I began flying. I did work experience with Eagle Aircraft and found that I was happiest when building the aircraft. I then worked an onsite program with the maintenance team at Hawker Pacific and immediately knew that aircraft maintenance was the perfect job for me!
One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was learning how to work with men. I spent my apprenticeship years being known as quiet. I was learning how to stand strong and maintain who I was as a person. For example, the guys tried their hardest to make me swear, but the competitor in me was not going to let them win! In the end it made me more determined to stand out as different. When they said, “you’re such a girl,” I found great pleasure replying, “isn’t that the truth!” Now in my current workplace I feel well respected. They were very supportive of me when I became a mother of four and encourage me while I juggle full time work with raising my family.
My advice to other women is to be true to yourself. Ignore what the world says is the norm and follow your heart. If you come across people that don’t accept you, don’t let that make you give up pursuing your dream. If you need help, never be afraid to ask for it – there will always be people that will support you. You spend so much of your life working, it only makes sense that it should be doing something that you love.
“Be true to yourself. Ignore what the world says is the norm and follow your heart. If you come across people that don’t accept you, don’t let that make you give up pursuing your dream. If you need help, never be afraid to ask for it – there will always be people that will support you. You spend so much of your life working, it only makes sense that it should be doing something that you love.”
Katherine Cox, Design Engineer, Bankstown, Australia
My fascination with aviation and space started at a young age. Both my parents were engineers in the aviation industry, so I grew up with it around me. There was never any doubt placed in my mind that I could work in the aviation industry if I wanted to. At school I enjoyed, and was good at, technical and mathematical subjects. My High School offered Engineering Studies as an HSC subject that provided a broad introduction to the engineering disciplines, and it made sense to keep pursuing something I was interested in. To this day I'm still that person that stops and stares at the sky every time a plane flies over.
I think I've been pretty lucky, as I've never really encountered anyone that's tried to put me down or stop me from pursuing a career in aviation. One thing that I'm working on is acknowledging to myself that I am good enough and I'm not where I am today by chance. Nothing feels better that proving to yourself and to others that you are capable, while breaking down those perceptions.
When asked, I tell others to seek out opportunities, show enthusiasm and if someone shows doubt in you, prove them wrong!
Hina Mazhar, Aircraft Maintenance Technician, Dubai
My interest in aviation was sparked during childhood while travelling with my family on a flight that was piloted by my father’s friend. I had never seen a cockpit and was delighted to be invited up for a demonstration on how the aircraft is flown and controlled — and it was love at first sight.
I knew then that I had to find a way to work in aviation. What I didn’t know is that it would be more challenging to do so because of my gender. Like any other male-dominated profession, outmoded assumptions about what women are capable of still persist. We’re not always taken as seriously as our male counterparts and we struggle to prove otherwise. I am fortunate because I was given equal opportunities here at Jet Aviation Dubai, where I had the opportunity during my internship with the Avionics department to develop and demonstrate my skills which I continue to do in my current position. I am held up to the same standards as all my colleagues and am expected to have the same skills and knowledge. I have never been treated as a ‘female’ technician but rather as a qualified technician like any other, which is how it should be and how I prefer it.
Still, there are always people that have something negative to say, that want to put you down. My advice is to ignore them. Don’t let them provoke you. Simply stay on your journey, which you know better than anyone else. Learn as much as you can from whomever you can. Learn from your good and bad experiences. Stay humble and remain focused on working towards your goals. This is how we’ll make sure aviation doesn’t remain a male-dominated profession.
Ashley Johnson, Director & General Manager FBO, Saint Louis
10 years ago, I was looking for a change and a family friend suggested Jet Aviation for good career opportunities. I checked it out and was instantly hooked! I started as a Customer Service Agent and recently accepted the role of Director of FBO Services here in St. Louis.
What I love about the business is the people! Our industry allows us to meet individuals from various cultures and backgrounds – no day is the same. I have made great working relationships in my 10 years with Jet Aviation, not to mention lifelong friends. This industry is exciting and ever-changing and I’m always eager to see what the future holds.
For me, the biggest hurdle was patience. I was so eager and hungry for growth. To overcome this, I accepted every project I could get my hands on. This kept me challenged, determined, and built my confidence as a leader.
My advice to young professionals is to make connections and find a mentor to help guide, support and encourage you to set goals.
Christie Nader, Chief Information Officer, Dulles
As an IT leader, I’ve worked in financial services, healthcare, higher education and federal defence, so what drew me to aviation really, was the fact that I like change and enjoy learning. Funnily, it hadn’t even occurred to me that it was a male-dominated field! A long-term goal of mine is to work on corporate boards, where experience in several industries and businesses is highly valued. So when my last employer was acquired, I wanted to change to a totally different, service-oriented industry and thought business aviation was very interesting.
In my experience, women have to work that much harder to earn the respect of others professionally. When employed as a network engineer at a university, for example., I had a vendor come out to provide a service. The administrative assistant in our department at the time (1994), happened to be male, and when the vendor showed up, he kept making eye contact and speaking with the assistant instead of with me, despite my telling him I was the manager. Twice I had to redirect him to speak with me, which underscores my point about women needing to work a bit harder to be taken seriously in the workplace. From this and other events, I also learned the importance of relationship building – something, by the way, that women are particularly good at. Again by way of example, after hearing indirectly that someone found me intimidating, I asked that person for lunch. As we got to know each other, I started noticing that he began supporting me more and more at work.
My advice to young women is to take the time to find and get to know the people who can help provide the support they need. Let them get to know you, your style and what you need. I also encourage women to believe that they’re doing a better job than they think they are. Studies have shown that women are much more likely to downplay or mistrust their skills and abilities. This tendency is called the imposter syndrome and most women don’t know they experience it. If you’re told you’re doing a good job, and especially if there’s evidence that you’re doing good work, believe it.
Lastly, I encourage everyone to read the book, “Love your Imposter,” by Rita Clifton. It has loads of actionable takeaways, including how to master the art of communicating, developing your own style, learning from mistakes and more. Don’t let anyone hold you back — yourselves included!
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