A Brief History of AWAM
Our 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 us have experienced the loneliness of being the only one or one of a handful of women in our position at work or school. Even when we attended the WAI (Women in Aviation) conference and found ourselves surrounded by a sea of extraordinary women, our perception was that the participants were predominantly pilots. Again, we found ourselves in what appeared to be a rather different minority status.
Soon, a wonderful thing happened. We began to find each other and we discovered that we weren’t alone at all. Despite our perceptions, our numbers are actually quite significant. All we needed was a system by which to communicate more efficiently.
The organizational luncheon, held at the WAI conference in 1996, was our 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 that was designed to help us identify ourselves and define our goals. The interest and enthusiasm expressed at this meeting gave us the momentum to publish our 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, we published an additional newsletter and assembled a founding board. A two day meeting of the founding board members, hosted by the Minneapolis Department of Transportation – Aviation Division, took place in January of ’97. On day one, the team set about the task of making the decisions necessary to form the organization. Much of the groundwork had been laid ahead of time which allowed 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 a name. Choosing a name was one of the more formidable tasks. Early on we realized that if we included every aspect of the people and industry, that we feel we represent, our name would be three pages long, in other words we discovered that we are not just airplane people but, aerospace, helicopter, and lighter than air with everything in between. We are not just technicians and mechanics, but engineers, scientists, and educators.
In short, we feel we encompass any 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 of 1997. The Board of Directors went through some exciting changes in the last year with addition of two new members. Prospects for the future have never looked brighter. Since then, the organization has steadily grown. Over 1,000 individuals and students have joined AWAM, as well as numerous educational institutions and corporations and associations.
In 2002 AWAM began a scholarship and awards program which has grown to award opportunities in total of over $190,000 annually to individuals, both women and men, in our technical areas. In 2009, AWAM became a national FAASTeam member with the FAA Safety Team. In 2010 AWAM was honored to be recognized by and receive 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.