In the aviation industry, we need powerful women at every level

This month’s International Women’s Day celebration helps remind us there’s still work to do

Here at Viasat, we’re proud to support International Women’s Day in a number of ways. In the division I oversee, Global Enterprise and Mobility, we wanted to mark not just the day itself (March 8), but the entire month of March in a unique and meaningful way.

As part of the UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign, Viasat is helping bring that message to passengers on some of the aircraft that use our in-flight connectivity service. With this, we’re able to showcase a variety of content and videos on five of our international airline partners’ portals, which can be accessed on passengers’ personal digital devices. The content will be available during the month of March, with some participating airlines offering free in-flight Wi-Fi when passengers watch the UN Women’s content.

One day or one month out of the year to recognize the great value of women in the workplace, of course, is just part of the story. To improve our own diversity in our workforce and to support and elevate women in technology, we must continue to move past outmoded notions of gender in the workplace. For me, that simply means hiring and advancing the best and brightest while ensuring that this talent pool is populated with people regardless of age, race, gender or orientation.

This is a relatively clear path for me as a leader and for Viasat overall. In fact, one of the reasons I joined this company last year was due to its enhanced focus on creating and maintaining a diverse workplace while hiring the best talent. Over my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many talented female colleagues, and I’ve reported to some exceptional female leaders along the way as well. Normally I wouldn’t even feel the need to point this out, but in the context of International Women’s Day, it’s worth highlighting.

I grew up with a strong female role model in my mother, who ran our family-owned truckstop and trucking business alongside my father. She was the one with the head for business, and she took care of the books alongside running much of the operation. That early experience showed me that gender, gender bias and other such factors are no reason to hold people back. Rather, we need to focus on talent, smarts, experience, domain knowledge and leadership skills. Those attributes are what is needed for success — and that especially holds true in our fast-growing sector.

In addition to what we’re doing during this month with the UN Women’s Generation Equality initiative, we’ve also supported Women in Aviation and Girls in Aviation programs. Inspiring the current and next generation of women leaders in this industry is crucial; having diverse thinking is what will continue to drive mobility markets forward globally.

Even so, female pilots at all levels total only about 8% today, according to the FAA. In the tech sector overall, only 5% of senior leadership positions are held by women, and only 16% of the job applicant pool are women.

Clearly, there are challenges to address those disparities — but also great opportunity. There’s still plenty of work to do to break down barriers and build up opportunities for female leadership at all career levels. I’m confident that Viasat will continue to expand the path to a more diverse, equal workforce as we expand globally over the next few years.

Jimmy Dodd is the President of Viasat Inc.’s Global Enterprise & Mobility business.