How a female president can inspire
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As a woman who has spent her career in the male-dominated field of aviation and aerospace, I can't help but be excited about the potential of finally electing a woman president. This is not meant as a political statement or a political column; it is meant to highlight the exciting potential that development would offer.

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Let's put that into perspective: It took nearly 100 years to move the needle from women being granted the right to vote under the 19th Amendment in 1918 to a woman possibly being the next president of the United States. While Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Bolton tells Russians 2016 meddling had little effect | Facebook eyes major cyber firm | Saudi site gets hacked | Softbank in spotlight over Saudi money | YouTube fights EU 'meme ban' proposal Dems lower expectations for 'blue wave' Election Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout MORE's (D) nomination this summer was a milestone for gender equality and diversity in the United States, we still have a long way to go.

Even today in the United States, women make up less than 20 percent of engineers and only 5 percent of all commercial airline pilots. Something isn't working and 100 years is too long to wait for more change to take place.

I'm not usually one to complain, but being the only or one of the only women at the table during my 30-year career has been challenging. Studies confirm what those of us in this situation know: Gender bias matters. Women are more often interrupted, talked over and dismissed in meetings — even by women.

This statistic changes only when the ratio of women to men is even or reversed.

So what do we do to affect change? We get involved. We get engaged. We break down the artificial gender and diversity barriers, and then we'll begin to see more than just incremental change. Each of us can do our part. There are so many opportunities to cultivate a love of any profession and I happen to think aviation and space are particularly rewarding professions.

Girls in Aviation Day, a Women in Aviation International event, will take place later this month. This event encourages and inspires young women to pursue their love of aviation. Hundreds of volunteers around the country selflessly give up their personal time to interact and encourage young women to think about career choices and why flying is a career with mass appeal.

Other organized advocacy groups are doing the same. This summer, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals held its annual convention and expo with hundreds of airline pilots attending and speaking to those interested in the aviation field; earlier this year, the National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA) held its annual meeting and job fair, engaging with hundreds of attendees interested in becoming an airline pilot. Air Line Pilot Association volunteers are actively reaching out to these communities to offer mentors and role models to those considering or new to the career.

For me personally, my career interest came from my role models and mentors. I'm fortunate to have among them the former astronaut and senator, John Glenn (D-Ohio), and astronaut Sally Ride. Once that human connection was made, I was hooked.

My career path has allowed me the opportunity to now be on the other side of the mentorship equation — an even more rewarding experience. One such mentee in particular, Dawn Brooke Owens — an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) examiner for aeronautics and space NASA — was particularly rewarding. Brooke was also a pilot and had gone to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on a full scholarship. She was one of the smartest, most innovating and interesting people I have ever known. Brooke died of breast cancer this summer at the age of 35.

Several of us who were particularly close to and inspired by Brooke have established a fellowship program in her honor to keep her spirit living on in our community. (We began accepting applicants this week. All the details can be found on our website.) The fellowship offers summer internships to college-age women who are considering entering the fields of aviation and space. Twenty organizations such as Blue Origins, Virgin Galactic and X-Prize Corporation are offering paid Brooke Owens internships in the summer of 2017.

Mentorship is the cornerstone of the Brooke Owens Fellowship experience, with each intern being provided two mentors, one from their host organization and one from the outside community.

We can't choose who or what inspires us; that just happens. Knowing Brooke has inspired me to ask my current and former colleagues to offer internships and mentor young women for the fellowship. I am so happy to report that (almost) no one has turned me down!

The prospect of Hillary Clinton being president inspired me to go door to door in the cold in Iowa, to ask friends to contribute money and to almost get kicked out of my own book club. Like I said — we can't choose who inspires us.

For the first time in 30 years, when I sit at the table with the staff leadership team where I work today, a majority of us are women. Working in that environment is, to me, inspiring. I appreciate that opportunity even more after returning from a board of directors meeting or pilot leadership meeting where I am, once again, the only woman at the table.

Like all of us, I've worked hard for the many seats at the table I've held in my career and I very much appreciate all the men who supported me along the way. But it was the women in leadership roles — hearing about them or meeting them — that showed me the path and inspired me to work even harder.

I would never have imagined that toward the end of my career, I would still find female role models so inspiring. 

Garver is general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association, International and the former deputy administrator of NASA.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.