Women’s History Month Kickoff (opening remarks)

Former Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen (April 1, 2022 – June 9, 2023)

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Hi everyone, and thank you for asking me to join you today for the FAA’s kickoff to Women’s History Month. Organizations like yours are making a real difference as we work to bring more women into aviation and to the FAA. 

And while we need to keep pushing to diversify our workforce, there are already innovative and strong women at every level at our agency. However, we need more. I can tell you first hand that this agency highly values your ideas, contributions and innovations. That is especially true for me. The women I work with here at the FAA are the most likely to challenge preconceived notions and reject group think. As a safety organization, challenging conventional wisdom is so important. It’s how we grow, improve, and become stronger and safer. 

As you may already know, the 2023 theme for National Women’s History Month is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” When people tell stories about famous women in aviation, of course we think of Amelia Earhart and Anne Morrow Lindberg—two of our nation’s most famous aviators. And by the way, speaking of telling stories, they didn’t just fly, but wrote about flying, too.

But we have famous women aviators to celebrate today. Zara Rutherford, at age 19, recently became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world. And what about Tammie Jo Shults? She was one of the first female F/A-18 Hornet pilots in the US Navy — who, in 2018 when she’d become a commercial pilot, saved 148 passengers and crew members when she safely landed a Boeing 737 after a high-altitude engine blade failure.  She deserves the Sully treatment!

These are great stories about standouts in female aviation, and all of us owe them a debt of gratitude. 

As we all know, women play critical roles throughout the FAA…and many are involved in organizations like PWC—Professional Women Controllers, Inc.; the TWO, or Technical Women’s Organization; and the Federal Women’s Program.  The organizations are breaking down barriers to the hiring and advancement of women as well as enhancing employment opportunities for women in every area of federal service. Gioia Albi is our Federal Women’s Program Manager, and I thank her for the important work she does.  

And back to PWC, Inc. – what a crucial role this organization has --encouraging women to enter the air traffic control profession; to build a diverse workforce; and to be a resource that provides support, training, and encouragement. In particular, I want to highlight their National Mentor Program, which provides an excellent opportunity for any FAA employee—at any grade, location, and point in their career—to receive mentoring that strengthens their professional skills and abilities. And, of course, the program needs mentors who can pass these skills on too. Opportunities like this are vital if we’re going to make aviation an option for everyone who’s interested…and if we’re going to meet future aviation workforce needs.  

Aviation needs the talents and perspective of women. Earhart and Lindberg helped get that conversation started, and the women of the FAA and the aviation industry are helping it to continue. I look forward to hearing from the next generation of female aviators. Most especially, I look forward to the way that hearing their stories will inspire others for generations to come. 

Thank you.