AWAM is an organization whose purpose is the “championing of women's professional growth and enrichment in the aviation maintenance fields by providing opportunities for sharing information and networking, education, fostering a sense of community and increasing public awareness of women in the industry."
The Motivation behind AWAM
Traditionally, many aviation organizations were founded to support and inform pilots. However, many in the aviation community were motivated to establish an organization that supported the aviation maintenance industry, in particular its female members which brought about the Association for Women in Aviation Mechanics, a nonprofit organization.
AWAM is an international organization, open to both women and men and provides membership opportunities for students and corporations. Membership consists of maintenance technicians, engineers, teachers, scientists, vendors and pilots that support aviation maintenance. AWAM’s primary aim is to support women in the aviation maintenance and technical fields and ensure networking opportunities for women.
AWAM’s inspiration to organize came from the expressed need for women, in the maintenance and engineering segments of the aviation industry to have a means by which to communicate and support each other. Most of its members have experienced the loneliness that comes from being either the only one or one of only a few women in their position. AWAM members speak about times when attending WAI (Women in Aviation) conference and finding themselves surrounded by a sea of extraordinary women. AWAM members’ perceptions were that the participants were predominantly pilots. For many, women involved in aviation maintenance found themselves in what appeared to be a rather different minority status.
It wouldn’t be long until a wonderful thing would happen. AWAM members began connecting with one another and discovering that there were many more women in aviation maintenance they ever imagined. Despite the many perceptions, women in aviation maintenance represent a significant percentage of the population. All they needed was a system by which to communicate more efficiently and network effectively.
The organizational luncheon, held at the WAI conference in 1996, was the first step. Although time was short, many questions and ideas were placed on the table for thought and future discussion. As a follow-up, a survey was sent to the participants designed to identify members and define the organization’s goals. The interest and enthusiasm expressed at the meeting gave AWAM the momentum it needed to publish its first newsletter and to arrange for an eight-hour pure maintenance presentation as a prelude to the WAI conference in March of 1997. During the months following the organizational luncheon AWAM published an additional newsletter and established a founding board. A two day meeting of the first board members, hosted by the Minneapolis Department of Transportation - Aviation Division, took place in January 1997. During the first day, the team set about the task of making the decisions necessary to formalize the organization. Much of the groundwork had been laid ahead of time allowing the team to accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time. On day two, the team tackled the even more difficult and time-consuming processes of writing the mission statement and choosing an official name.
Many Technical Disciplines
Choosing a name was one of the more formidable tasks. The board realized that if they included representation of the entire industry the name would be three pages long. In the end, the board discovered they were more than airplane people but, aerospace, helicopter, and lighter than air with everything in between. Members are not just technicians and mechanics, but engineers, scientists, and educators. In short, AWAM was certain they encompassed every technical discipline with the common goal of keeping things safely in the air. Board members and officers were elected at the WAI conference near Dallas, Texas in March 1997. The Board of Directors went through some exciting changes in the last year with the addition of two new members.
Since then, the organization has steadily grown. Over 1,000 individuals and students have joined AWAM, as well as numerous educational institutions, corporations, and associations. In 2002 AWAM began a scholarship and awards program which has grown to award opportunities in total of over $73,000 to individuals, both women and men in the technical areas of aviation. In 2009, AWAM became a national FAASTeam member with the FAA Safety Team. In 2010 AWAM was recognized by and received a $10,000 grant from The UPS Foundation which assists in securing its electronic infrastructure to connect with members and the world to support women in the aviation technical fields.
In 2012 AWAM celebrated its 15th anniversary! AWAM continues to remain true to its original mission and purpose -- supporting women and keeping things safely in the air.