‘We will make a difference’

Posted: December 3, 2020

With attendees spanning industry, academia and beyond, The Ohio State University Center for Aviation Studies 2020 Global Conference on Diversity in Aviation, Aerospace and STEM was a success. Speakers discussed best practices and ideas for future development in a collaborative space.

The month-long virtual training series – held October 12 through November 13 – encompassed nine interactive sessions ranging from allyship to industry developments.

“The fact that we were able to host the conference for a third year shows the value the diversity conversation has for a wide range of individuals,” said Conference Director Shannon Morrison, Center for Aviation Studies assistant director of academics and program assessment.

Image of online conference panelists
Panelists join moderator Vanessa Blacknall-Jamison and Conference Director Shannon Morrison during the “Where do we go now: The Future of Diversity Efforts in the Aviation Industry” session.

The conference easily transitioned to be virtual. “The online format worked remarkably well and this year’s conference clearly continued the success of the first two in-person conferences,” said Ohio State aviation’s Senior Advisor and Lecturer Rod Borden. “The level of participation by both attendees and top-notch speakers is a clear indication of the importance of the diversity issue to our industry and the commitment to do something about it.”

Participants learned from keynote presenter and Certified Diversity Professional Daniel Juday. He emphasized the importance of creating space in organizations to talk about diversity topics, as well as the need to meet people as individuals.

Relevant takeaways, such as those shared by Juday, were the highlight of the conference. “Overall, what was so great about this year were the practical, applicable conversations,” commented Morrison.

Case studies and meaningful discussions punctuated the series.

Panelists from The Boeing Company presented actionable steps taken by its Guidance Repair Center to propel it from diversity-averse to diversity-celebrating, while Jorge Albelo and Eugene Kim of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University shared evidence-based findings on the retention of minority women in aviation higher education. And, in a special session, student attendees gleaned diversity-related job-seeking insights from Ohio State College of Engineering’s Career Services office.

The final session brought together national organizations dedicated to supporting the diversity of ideas and persons in the aviation sector. Panel representatives were affiliated with the Latino Pilot Association, National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees, National Society of Black Engineers, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, The NGPA: The Worldwide LGBT Aviation Community and Women in Aviation International. The panel focused on the future of diversity efforts in the aviation industry.

Summarizing the panel’s insights, moderator Vanessa Blacknall-Jamison, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, confidently stated, “We will make a difference and continue to make a difference.”

Her statement reflects the mission of the conference.

“I started this conference because I saw the need to bring together a variety of voices on how to create a more inclusive and equitable aviation industry,” said Morrison. “It’s my hope that this year’s attendees and speakers put into action the great ideas shared at the conference.”

by Holly Henley, communications specialist