In the United States, a mere five percent of commercial pilots are women. However, Delta is hoping to change that by not only hiring more women, but by also encouraging young girls to join the aviation industry in the future.
Last weekend, Delta celebrated International Girls in Aviation Day by flying 120 girls between ages 12 and 18 to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Texas with its Women Inspiring our Next Generation, or WING, program. And they got there with an all-female flight crew of gate agents, ground workers, crew, and pilots.
"We know representation matters. At Delta, we believe you have to see it to be it," Beth Poole, general manager of pilot development, said in a statement. "We're taking ownership to improve gender diversity by exposing girls at a young age and providing a pipeline so that 10 years from now, they will be the pilots in the Delta cockpit inspiring generations of women who follow."
As Delta noted, its WING Flight program began in 2015 as part of a larger effort to diversify the male-dominated aviation industry and expose girls to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers.
Once on the ground in Houston, the girls who took part in this year’s flight toured NASA's Mission Control Center, spent time with female aviation mentors, and even enjoyed lunch with NASA astronaut and aerospace engineer, Jeanette Epps.
"I never would have thought I would have had this experience. I'm really grateful for my parents who have made this possible and inspired my love of aviation," Karyanna, a 16-year-old participant, shared in the statement. "It's such an exciting time to be in STEM. There's so much left for us to discover."
Katelyn, a 17-year-old participant, added, "It didn't seem realistic to go after a career in aviation, but today I realized, 'Hey, I can do this too.’”
Though Delta remains on par with the rest of the aviation industry, noting five percent of its current pilots are women, it added that 7.4 percent of Delta's newly hired pilots have been women. One day soon, they’ll hopefully be able to hire more women like Katelyn and Karyanna, too.