Camp in Wisconsin Aims to Inspire More Girls to Pursue Careers in Aviation
There will be approximately 14,500 openings for airline pilots each year for the next decade, according to a projection by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet as of 2021, only about 8% of commercial pilots were women. That number only rises to 9% when taking into account all pilots.
EAA Girlventure camp in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is working to change that. Founded in 2003, the four-day event looks to inspire high school-age girls to pursue careers in aviation. The camp takes place during EAA Airventure Oshkosh, the world’s largest air show of its kind. Approximately 650,000 aviation enthusiasts from around the world arrive in Wisconsin at the end of July to watch aerobatics, listen to lectures and attend hands-on workshops. More than 10,000 aircrafts arrive at Wittman Regional Airport every year, making it the busiest airport in the world during the week of EAA Airventure.
Among all of this activity, 83 campers between the ages of 14 and 18 came from different parts of the country this year to attend EAA GirlVenture Camp. The girls started the week with a NASA STEM activity, in which they were given 20 pieces of spaghetti and 3 feet of tape to build the tallest tower that could support a marshmallow on top.
Throughout the camp, they attended classes, like Aviation 101, where they learned about the parts of an aircraft and the principles of flight. There were also workshops where they were taught how to fold sheet metal and rivet. Inspiring women from the avionics world, such as Elizabeth “Liz” Ruth, a research pilot for NASA, spoke to the young women about careers in aviation. Campers were able to connect with mentors and form relationships with people who share their passion for aviation.
Josie Figueroa-Duran, 16, grew up flying down to Mexico four or five times a year and always loved being in airplanes. She is currently getting her airframe and powerplant certification, which will allow her to work as an aircraft mechanic as soon as she graduates high school in Chicago. She said she is the only girl in her airframe and powerplant certification class. Research pilot Elizabeth “Liz” Ruth speaks with young women from the GirlVenture Camp
“It’s just really discouraging sometimes to not find girls in classes or for guys to be like, ‘Oh, you’re a girl, you’re not going to be able to do that, you’re weak or whatever,” she said. “And it’s like, no, I can do the exact same thing as you or probably even better.”
Figueroa-Duran eventually wants to become an airline pilot and loved spending her time at EAA Girlventure. “I’m just inspired. I’m also amazed of how many girls, my age, that I had no idea about, are also interested [in aviation] because I don’t feel alone now.”
“We’ve had a very high success rate in young ladies going into aviation as a profession,” camp director Debby Rihn-Harvey told NBC News.
Tina Druskin, a pilot for United Airlines based out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, attended EAA Girlventure as a camper throughout high school and now volunteers as a mentor for the girls.
“There’s a demand and we can’t fulfill that demand without people coming up behind us,” she said. “And we need really awesome, great people who are going to be future co-workers. And I’m excited. ... It is something that in eight years, hopefully, they’re sitting next to me in a cockpit and we’re both flying a jet across the country, across the world.” Learn more: Here