Coming Together to Become Agents of Positive Social Change

Pilot Commentary

By F/O Camila Turrieta (She/Her/Hers) (JetBlue), Chair, President’s Committee for Diversity & Inclusion

My path to aviation wasn’t a traditional one; my mom was a waitress and my father a jockey. My parents left their jobs and family, and we moved to the United States when I was seven years old in search of the American dream.

At an early age I began to face inequalities, inequities, and a scarcity of resources in my new hometown of Queens, N.Y. While attending public high school, I began to notice that some teachers were more helpful and attentive to certain kids. I wasn’t one of those kids. I once overheard my aviation teacher say to another that because of the color of my skin and my gender I would never be successful in life—therefore, there was no use in teaching me anything about aviation.

At 13, I realized that people didn’t believe in me; I was given a label before I was ever allowed to thrive. This experience quickly helped me understand what it meant to stand up for myself and fight for what matters. Every morning after that experience, I promised myself I would give people the best version of myself.

As I reminisce on this life-changing event that defined who I am today, I ponder about the long-term effects the President’s Committee for Diversity & Inclusion (PCDI) will have on our current and future members.

Capt. Joe DePete established the PCDI in the fall of 2019. Since the creation of the PCDI, we’ve made great strides in topics and conversations that have remained silenced for far too long in our industry, union, and profession.

The committee is composed of ALPA pilots who represent different cultures, experiences, and backgrounds. The PCDI convened virtual meetings during the past six months to develop our comprehensive strategic plan for 2020–2021. This plan provides a road map for cultivating and promoting a diverse, inclusive culture that champions dignity and respect, where pilots feel welcomed and motivated to do their best.

With the help of our governing core values of Respect, Responsiveness, Inspire, Show Compassion, Equality and Equity, Unity, and Passion (RRISEEUP), the PCDI illustrates the path to develop a more diverse and inclusive membership.

Our goals focus on three separate areas: ensuring leadership support, cultivating and supporting an inclusive workplace, and encouraging diversity in our future workplace.

To ensure that ALPA’s leaders supports our endeavors, the PCDI will educate them in tactics to understand and implement supportable diversity and inclusion strategies within our union at the national and local level. Cultivating and supporting an inclusive workplace will enable the PCDI to promote a culture that maximizes the talent, skills, and diversity of our ALPA members. To encourage a diverse workplace, the PCDI is developing various ways to secure the future of aviation through outreach and support of our youth—including those who might not think that a career in aviation is attainable.

My story provides a perspective of the harsh reality and truth that are commonly faced by individuals of diverse backgrounds and experiences. We must strive to build bridges to close the gaps that exist between our profession and the dreams of those who wish to become professional airline pilots.

Our union can no longer stand by as our members face immoralities, inequalities, inequities, and systemic discrimination. It’s time to come together, form a singular voice, and stand up for what’s right regardless of a pilot’s race, creed, color, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

I’ve spoken to many ALPA members; I want to continue to hear your stories because they’re the building blocks of encouragement our members need. I encourage every ALPA member to take an active role in creating and supporting a diverse and inclusive workplace. I believe that each of us can be agents of positive social change in our industry.

This article was originally published in the August 2020 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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