Book Review Women of Color in the Aviation Industry

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Theodore Wesley Johnson


Women of Color in the Aviation Industry takes a gallant position on the contemporary state of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives within U.S. aviation through the lenses of several women of color working in the industry. The exploration of their experiences as women of color aviation professionals provides a compelling and nearly irrefutable backdrop for the many inequities, challenges, and barriers they face as a function of their race and/or gender. The author contends these inequities persist because aviation entities are engaged in “performative DEI” measures rather than reflecting upon their extant structures and systems to ascertain what is causing the inequities and why minoritized groups, particularly women of color, are adversely impacted. The text strives to encourage readers to critically reflect upon the reason(s) why minoritized groups, specifically women of color, continue to have low participation rates in an industry that proclaims to be committed to DEI to make a more just workforce. Such a conundrum is explored through semi-structured interviews with numerous women of color who hold various aviation positions. This approach was most apt to obtain first-person accounts of the challenges women of color and presumably other minoritized groups experience. Consequently, industry leadership can leverage these experiences and focus efforts on making equity-centric change instead of concerning themselves with remaining on the “right side” of DEI. The author provided several robust examples of how current DEI efforts, coupled with a lack of reflection, do more harm than good because they propagate a “diversity that maintains Whiteness.” Combined with the six commonly used controlling images, these examples help refute the state of social equity many believe the U.S. is in. The primary messages are written to make it easy for the layperson to understand, but the text falls short of providing actionable recommendations leadership can implement. Despite this limitation, the text may benefit a broad audience, especially for leadership overseeing commercial airlines, government, and collegiate aviation programs. Further, the experiences described have some transferability to sectors and industries external to aviation, meaning they can be incorporated within the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to enhance public administration and social policy to make a more just society.

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