A celebration of women in aviation hoping to ignite hopes of pursuing careers in aviation took place over the weekend at the Region of Waterloo International Airport.
Going into its sixth year, the annual Girls CAN Fly! event is held to encourage young women to become involved in the aviation industry.
“The event was established to promote the aviation industry to girls and young women to give them an opportunity to learn and talk to women in the industry. The women-to-men ratio in the aviation industry has improved over the last few years, but there is still a huge opportunity for women to get involved. And with the shortage of pilots right now, this is a prime opportunity to do that,” said Caroline Rose of the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre.
Some 240 girls and young women took advantage of the free flights, a 30-min airplane ride or 20-min helicopter ride, toured the flight centre and met industry representatives.
Nanette Jozwiak lends her services each year with the event.
“I volunteer for these events because it is so inspiring to have young girls come, the energy is phenomenal, and I just love it,” said Jozwiak. “I think for young girls to see role models and to see that they can actually do this, you know that this is actually something they can do this for a career I think is really good and it is really good exposure for them.”
A retired Air Canada pilot originally from Galt, Jozwiak was the company’s ninth female pilot.
“When I joined the airline, we were one per cent – females were one per cent of Air Canada. I was the ninth female pilot for Air Canada, now we have probably over 200 women that fly for Air Canada. So there are more and more women getting involved in aviation and I think it is due to events like this – it is really good for them,” said Jozwiak.
Her career in aviation began as a hobby, and from there lead her to fly medical evacuation flights, Purolator, City Express out of Toronto Island Airport and finally to her position at Air Canada in 1986.
“I just was so enthralled with, from young up really, I was amazed at how those big airplanes could get up in the air and how they could stay there and fly, so my dad would bring me to this airport to the air shows. After my first flight I was hooked, and from that flight on that’s what I did,” said Jozwiak. “I knew that flying was what I wanted to do, once I got into that airplane there was no holding me back anymore.”
For Jozwiak, who says she didn’t have this opportunity when she learned to fly, it is really rewarding to see the young girls so excited to want to learn everything about flying.
Natalie Groves is one of those girls. Like Jozwiak she has had an interest in flying from a young age. The 11-year-old from Lester B. Pearson Public School attended the event with her dad Scott after he received correspondence from the flight club about the day to promote women in aviation.
Groves says she is happy to be at the age where she can still day dream about her future, without having to make firm plans, but that this event has been an amazing opportunity to speak with women in the industry and learn more about pursuing it either professionally or recreationally.
“I am debating over it, I am still not at that age yet where you have to figure out what you want to be. All of dad’s friends keep asking me if I’m going to be a pilot. I’m not too sure, just walking around seeing what I like,” said Groves. “I am really enjoying it (the event), just kind of walking around looking at things, we keep discovering things and I’m like pulling him everywhere around.”
One of the many industry representatives present at the event was Julie Beverstein from Porter Airlines.
Twelve per cent of Porter’s flight operators are female, double what you would find in Canada, Beverstien said.
“We try to promote the company to be very female friendly, we do that by promoting a really good work/life balance so that people can be mothers and still follow their passion in aviation.”
Her second time attending the event, Beverstien said it is important to do grass-root events like this to begin cultivating the next generation of aviators.
“We really believe that if we engage with young girls now that they will consider aviation as a career maybe in 15-20 years,” said Beverstien.