Diversity Gains Momentum Heading into 2022

Pilot Commentary

By F/O Camila Turrieta (JetBlue), Chair, President’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion

“Diversity of thought” has been at the core of aviation since its inception. By thinking outside the box, pushing boundaries, and working collaboratively, the Wright brothers changed the world when they first took flight. And years later, when confronted with unsafe business practices that led to several pilot fatalities in airplane accidents, ALPA’s founding members bravely put their careers on the line when they pushed back against the status quo. Their forward thinking and actions charted a path that changed aviation safety forever.

In the spirit of our founding members, ALPA is committed to ensuring that tomorrow’s aviation system continues to build off the incredible advancements that have helped make airline travel the safest mode of transportation in the world. To do this, among other things, we must work to attract a more diverse and inclusive workforce of highly trained and fully qualified aviators to meet future demand.

The President’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI), which Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA’s president, established in 2019, is working to cultivate and support an inclusive workplace and encourage diversity in our profession. To accomplish this, it’s important to understand the current industry environment. According to 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 94 percent of U.S. pilots are Caucasian men. The remaining 6 percent are women and individuals belonging to other underrepresented groups.

In order to reap the benefits of a more diverse industry, this statistic must change. We must strive to close the gaps that exist between our profession and the dreams of those who wish to become airline pilots. Just like in other professions, a future aviator wants to see someone who looks like them so they feel like they would belong in our industry.

The PCDI works to tackle these issues and has made great progress in 2021. The committee is composed of ALPA pilots who bring to the table different experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives. The PCDI’s mission is to promote a diverse and inclusive culture that champions dignity and respect, creating an environment in which pilots feel welcomed and motivated while upholding the gold standard of aviation safety that we’ve worked so hard to achieve.

This year, the PCDI conducted an all-ALPA member survey, and we received positive and constructive feedback. Several comments from underrepresented ALPA members echoed the need for a seat and voice at the table so that their concerns are included from the very beginning—not included as an afterthought.

In addition to the survey, the PCDI and ALPA’s Professional Standards Committee introduced a resolution that expanded the ALPA Code of Ethics and Canons to foster “an environment of inclusiveness through equity and equality.” The Association’s Board of Directors supported this measure, which has already been influential in helping to make some of ALPA’s manuals and handbooks gender-neutral.

The PCDI’s work toward gender-inclusive language was recently recognized through the recommendations made to the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee. In July, I participated on behalf of the PCDI in the FAA’s first Diversity and Inclusion Summit, which led to an FAA Inclusive Language Summit in November. This was the first major step in bringing stakeholders to the table to discuss the adoption of gender-neutral and inclusive language—a step that we hope will lead to replacing the male-only references that have been used in our industry for decades and exclude women and nonbinary individuals from fully being represented in our policies, manuals, and collective bargaining agreements.

ALPA has a long history of reaching out to aspiring aviators and supporting all pilots. I’m proud to be part of the PCDI and the work we’re doing to change how we speak about our profession, diversify the industry, and close the inclusivity gap that currently exists.

This article was originally published in the December 2021 issue of Air Line Pilot.

Read the latest Air Line Pilot (PDF)