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EAA WomenVenture 2022 celebrates 15th anniversary, women in aviation

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Posted at 4:03 PM, Jul 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 07:10:47-04

OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — Among the blue skies at EAA AirVenture is a sea of pink and green, as more than 1,000 women of all ages gathered Wednesday at Boeing Plaza to commemorate the 15th anniversary of WomenVenture.

"I didn't even know that I wanted to be in aviation at all. I got in entirely by accident," said Stacey Jackson, a pilot from Canada.

Jackon's love for flying sparked at the age of 14 when she joined a youth organization called The Royal Canadian Air Cadets.

"We went for a glider trip with our squadron and as soon as I landed, I knew that I had to do this for the rest of my life," Jackson said.

She obtained her glider and private pilot licenses through The Royal Canadian Air Cadets, an organization similar to Young Eagles in the United States. Jackson said she later went to college and completed a 3-year-program to become a commercial pilot.

With more than 20 years of flying experience, Jackson currently works for a Canadian airline as a first officer.

“It’s been a very fantastic journey, honestly," Jackson said. "There's just something so cool about flying a giant airplane into different cities all over the world."

In a traditionally male dominated industry, Jackson makes up the small percentage of female pilots in the worldwide aviation community.

"Less than 6% of all who carry a pilots license in the U.S. are women," said Margaret Viola, WomenVenture chairwoman. "Studies kind of point back to the same thing as the STEM pipeline. The pipeline tends to be leaky from an early school age on."

That's where Viola said the pipeline needs to be patched.

"One of the ways to address that is to make sure we show kids what’s possible: to translate the math, and science assignments you do in the classroom to what real world applications, and a really exciting life and career can look like.

Organizations like Women in Aviation International, a non-profit formed in the late '90s to encourage more women to enter the industry, help with the next steps, giving girls and women the tools they need to get into aviation.

“Aviation offers something for everybody, whether you want to fly, or fix or support," said Allison McKay, Women in Aviation International CEO. "That’s how I came up through the industry. I was in sales and marketing before I started on this kind of non-profit mission to get more young women into the industry. But it is an infectious industry to be apart of, and the technology is advancing rapidly and I think it’s just an incredibly exciting time to be in this industry.”

In addition to being a pilot, Jackson is also an adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota. She's also pursuing her PHD and is president of her local Women in Aviation chapter, setting an example for girls that anything is possible.

"You don't have to be a pilot, or an air traffic controller or a mechanic," Jackson said. "If you love something, you can find a way to incorporate that in aviation really easily."

To inspire the next generation, Women in Aviation International plans to host a Girls in Aviation Day on Sept. 24. People around the world can participate, including girls and women in Wisconsin.

The organization also provides financial scholarships to women looking to start a career in aviation.