Alaska Airlines Pledges to Increase Female African American Pilots

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Pilots, like many careers in the travel industry, are lacking in diversity. Only half of one percent of all professional pilots are African American women. Alaska Airlines wants to change that.

On February 13, Alaska Airlines signed a pledge with Sisters of the Skies, a nonprofit aimed at diversifying the pilot community. With this pledge, Alaska Airlines promised to increase the number of female African American pilots that they employ at the airline and at Horizon Air over the next six years.

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Currently, Alaska Airlines only has four African American female pilots between their two airlines, which makes up about one percent of all of their pilots.

“When we foster an inclusive environment that recognizes, respects, and visibly reflects all people, it makes us stronger,” said Andy Schneider, Alaska Airlines vice president of people. “Quite simply, creating an airline people love is not possible unless we walk the talk around diversity and inclusion.”

African American female pilots are few and far between in the airline industry, and with this pledge, Sisters of the Skies and Alaska Airlines will have to do more to inspire African American women to pursue aviation careers.

Tara Wright is the director of development of Sisters of the Skies and an Alaska Airlines captain. Last year, she and her co-pilot became the first all-female African American pilot team in the airline’s history on Mother’s Day.

She said: “I met a high school senior recently who said she couldn’t be a pilot because her vision wasn’t good. I told her, ‘Well, you’ve got some outdated information.’ We need more support mechanisms in place, so young girls of color see aviation as a viable career path.”

“If we quadruple the number of African American female pilots at Alaska, we’ll be leading the charge. That would be a huge achievement when you consider where we are as an industry,” she added.

This pledge isn’t just about diversifying Alaska’s pilots, but also a way that the airline can combat the commercial pilot shortage.

Alaska Airlines Captain Will Mcquillen, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) Master Executive Council chairman, said, “Amid a commercial pilot shortage, it is incumbent upon Alaska Airlines’ success to ensure that they are hiring the strongest candidates. Diversity is an important element of that goal and we are pleased to see this partnership with Sisters of the Skies.”

Alaska Airlines first officer and Sisters of the Skies member, Kim Ford hopes Alaska Airlines continues to lead the way in diversity in the travel industry.

“I’m so proud that Alaska Airlines is dedicated to supporting aerospace education, inspiring youth to achieve their dreams, and to increasing diversity at Alaska and Horizon,” she said. “It is also important to study the barriers to women of color getting to the flight deck and pathways to success in their careers.”

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