Delta today celebrated International Girls in Aviation Day with its fifth-annual WING Flight - "Women Inspiring our Next Generation" - carrying 120 girls ages 12-18 from Salt Lake City to NASA in Houston as we work to close the gender gap in aviation.
From nose to tail, the flight was planned and orchestrated exclusively by women – including the pilots flying the plane, ramp agents working on the ground, gate agents boarding the flight and women in the tower guiding the aircraft on its way out.
Delta's WING Flight originated in 2015 as an effort to diversify a male-dominated industry and expose girls to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers at a young age. This year's anniversary makes over 600 female students who have taken to the skies with Delta through the program.
NBC News' TODAY West Coast anchor Natalie Morales joined Delta to cover the journey and brought an all-female video crew. Watch the TODAY segment.
"We know representation matters. At Delta, we believe you have to see it to be it," said Beth Poole, General Manager - Pilot Development, who helped start Delta's WING Flight in 2015 and has helped plan the flight ever since. "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."
On the ground in Houston, the girls experienced the worlds of flight and human space exploration. They toured NASA's Mission Control Center, Building 9, Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston. Throughout the trip, students got to know mentors from other male-dominated aviation workgroups, including a female technician from Delta's Technical Operations team. They also had lunch with Jeanette Epps, NASA astronaut and aerospace engineer.
"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," said Karyanna H.,16, an 11th grader at Jordan Technical Institute. "It's such an exciting time to be in STEM. There's so much left for us to discover."
While the WING Flight was many of the girls' first time flying, Delta partnered with schools that have STEM or aviation programs to provide clear paths for interested future female aviators. Students from Salt Lake City included girls from Advanced Learning Center, Bryant Middle School, Granite Technical Institute, Jordan Technical Institute, Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy and Salt Lake Center for Science Education.
"It didn't seem realistic to go after a career in aviation, but today I realized, 'Hey, I can do this too,'" said Katelyn J., age 17, a 12th grader from Advanced Learning Center.
As the airline celebrated the WING Flight in the U.S., Delta also supported an International Girls in Aviation Day in Madrid. The event today was open to children ages 7-16 with pilots and aircraft technicians from the U.S. and Spain to present and facilitate an afternoon of interactive activities.
Delta is on par with the aviation industry with approximately 5% pilots who are women. In the past four years, 7.4% of Delta's new hire pilots have been women. The WING Flight is one way we're working to drive those numbers upward.
"I've loved being able to look at all of the things these successful women have accomplished. I think we will learn from them and build on their foundation of success," added Shanae C., 17, a 12th grader from Jordan Technical Institute.
In addition, Delta works to level the skies by advocating for gender equality. In 2019, Delta again achieved 100 percent pay parity for employees in frontline jobs and was awarded a "Best Workplace for Women" by Great Place To Work® and Fortune for the third year in a row, as the only airline on the list. Delta serves women through partnering with Women in Aviation International, National Council of Negro Women, CARE and Atlanta's Women Foundation. The airline also empowers and prioritizes women-owned businesses throughout its supply chain with a robust 20 year supplier diversity program.
Delta's SHE Business Resource Group serves as a place for employees of all genders to engage in conversations about gender in the workplace. In May, SHE went international by launching a branch in the Europe, Middle East, Africa, India region.Removing barriers
Delta's pipeline strategy focuses on farming for the next generation of talent – addressing underrepresentation by growing and inspiring talent, nurturing the individuals and removing economic, racial and gender barriers. The WING Flight is just one of the ways Delta is developing the future generation through targeted educational initiatives. Delta has a variety of pipeline programs including the Propel Pilot Career Path Program, investments in nearly 50 aircraft maintenance technician training programs, ACE and Solo Flight Academies, the Dream Flight and more.
Delta's support of grade school students also includes its nonprofit partnerships with organizations like Junior Achievement, Young Enterprise, Atlanta Public Schools, 3DE and KaBOOM! that develop more sustainable communities by funding education.