Equity takes flight

Elevate Aviation

Elevate Aviation aims to open greater opportunities for women in the aviation industry.

Elevate Aviation wants to show women and girls across Canada that not even the sky is the limit.

The aviation industry has come a long way since the days women were only allowed to wear skirts and heels. But in Canada and around the world, the industry still struggles with gender equality.

The good news is that progress is underway. The changes are due to the efforts of women like Kendra Kincade, founder of Elevate Aviation.

Kendra spent years as an air traffic controller. She saw few women in roles outside of customer service and cabin crew. Women were not given the opportunity and information to work in other positions. Pilots, airline executives, aerospace engineers and air traffic controllers were often men.

Kendra decided to do something about it. In 2015, she started Elevate Aviation in Edmonton, Alberta. Today, the not-for-profit organization offers programs in all thirteen provinces and territories.

Opening eyes in the industry

Elevate Aviation does important work to entice women into aviation careers. Sometimes, their efforts are affected by a male-dominated industry that isn’t prepared for changes to its workforce.

"We get excited to introduce women and girls to careers in aviation. We then realize that workplaces aren’t ready for them,” says Nova Andrews, director of the Elevate Aviation Learning Centre. "The importance of Allies in the Workplace in such a male-dominated field is exponential. We strive to create interest in aviation, but we also want the experience to be positive once women get into the sector.”

In February 2022, Elevate Aviation launched Allies in the Workplace with support from Women and Gender Equality Canada’s Feminist Response and Recovery Fund. The three-phase program helps aviation companies create inclusive work environments for women where they can thrive and develop into leadership roles. The process involves engaging an internal champions team to utilize the Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmarking tool. This tool includes 245 measures across four areas of business to help determine and co-create short- and long-term goals, which will be analyzed to measure progress.

Allies in the Workplace is timely – across all skilled trades, only seven per centFootnote 1  of workers are women. But times are changing.

“The industry itself is hungry for this,” says Nova. “We’re helping companies better understand how to include Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in their Sustainability Strategy around employee engagement. We’re helping them explore what equity and inclusion mean to marginalized people. We will then provide language and tools to help these companies create safe spaces.”

Allies in the Workplace is still in its early stages. However, Elevate Aviation continues to secure new organizations to work with. They will be testing the effectiveness of their program with Canadian North and Winnipeg Airports Authority.

Launching a love of aviation

One of Elevate Aviation’s goals is to inspire a life-long passion for aviation in women. In 2018, the organization created the Elevate Aviation Learning Centre to offer programs that teach and inspire girls and women of all ages. They take a kindergarten-to-career approach through their four programs. The Junior Jets program is for children as young as five years old; the Aviation Career Exploration (ACE) is for pre-teen girls and young women; Aviation Readiness Training (ART) is pre-employment training for work-ready women; and Elevate U is for women in the industry who are looking for professional development opportunities.

“Our goal is to spark curiosity. We introduce concepts around aviation with Junior Jets,” says Nova. “In our ACE program, students are able to get course credits that help them meet the requirements for a secondary school diploma by coming to our program.”

Students in the ACE program get a week-long exposure to various careers in aviation through hands-on activities, mentor presentations, tours and more. The ART programs focus on workplace readiness. Women can access a variety of in-person and online courses to learn about different career paths and work environments, building interview skills, undergoing safety training, and obtaining licenses and certifications.

Finally, Elevate U is for women who are already in the industry but want to move into leadership roles. Many women in aviation are in entry-level positions. Through Elevate U, they can take classes on public speaking and leadership. They're also able to find mentors who can help them move into higher-level positions.

Building awareness at all levels

Education is vital but increasing levels of basic awareness is even more important. Nova points to the documentary Only Up that is currently in post-production with founder Kendra Kincade as a first-time director.

“One of the female pilots we were filming started as a flight attendant,” Nova explains. “It didn’t even occur to her that she could ever be a pilot. Then, one day, she looked up in the cockpit and there was a woman up there. She thought, ‘Oh wait, why did I never think of that?’ There she was, in aviation as a flight attendant, not even realizing that she could be a pilot."

“We’re often told, ‘You can do anything.’ But when you don’t see it, you can’t be it.”

Elevate is always developing and launching new in-person programs. They are exploring new ways to enhance outreach and bring awareness about the aviation industry to the public. The organization is actively developing virtual reality technology in their efforts. Talk about reaching for the sky!

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