Airspace Q1 2019 – Embracing Diversity – Teri Bristol, Chief Operating Officer, FAA ATO


Our recent reauthorizing legislation calls for a new advisory board that will develop a plan to attract women to aviation broadly. I think we first have to build awareness of the careers available in our industry, to include those professions that directly support air traffic operations. ATO employees have for years worked with schools to spark interest from the youngest of grades, and there’s more that we can do.

The legislation also calls for a task force that will offer strategies to encourage high school students to enrol in classes that position them for aviation-related college or trade school coursework. The ultimate aim is to develop pathways to get those students hired directly into the industry, including here in the ATO. Ours is a complex organisation that encompasses a range of professions, and I know there are many women who would be interested in making a career with us.

Once we have them on board, we have a group that provides employees with tools to grow their careers, including skills assessments and education, resume writing techniques, and interviewing support. We also have a series of development programmes for employees who aspire to management, both in technical and non-technical positions. While they are designed for the entire workforce, I look forward to women taking advantage of these programmes.

One thing that I believe is common among many women, me included, is that we are big planners. In Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, one of the things that she talks about is, “don’t leave before you leave.” Women not only plan for today, but we may be projecting out for years to come. If you’re qualified and interested in a new position, go for it. Put your name in. Don’t not bid on a job because you might get married, might have kids, your significant other might be transferred … stay in.

And don’t over analyse! I’ve learned that the only thing you can count on is that life will change, and you don’t want to count yourself out of an opportunity.

To that point, I hope that the advisory board looks at how we have structured work in this industry, as shift work and irregular hours do have an impact on work-life balance, and women in particular may choose to opt out for these reasons.

We need to consider how structure, support tools, and mentoring by women who have made it work, can be used to keep women in the game.

People Airspace Magazine