By Aleta Vinas, ANN Correspondent
Dr. Peggy Chabrian, founder and
President of Women in Aviation International took some time out
from her busy conference schedule to chat with ANN about the past
16 years of conferences.
"It actually started as a conference in 1990 in Prescott
(AZ)." Chabrian told ANN. Attendance grew from 150 to 750
over five years and attendees began to ask Chabrian about joining
the organization. "What organization?" was Chabrian's reply. The
question did plant a seed and at the 1995 conference the Women in
organization was announced.
"We didn't know what the potential was when we started the
organization, maybe we'll get a thousand or two thousand people."
Chabrian said. Today membership is nearing the 7,000 mark.
Some of the highlights, beyond starting the organization were,
according to Chabrian "we started publishing a magazine in
1998." Purdue University started the first WAI chapter. "Now,"
says Chabrian, "we have over 40 chapters."
After 9-11 there were "some tough times" relates Chabrian.
"Every year the conference grew." After 9-11 attendance
suffered in 2002 and 2003. Membership decreased as well during this
time. "Those were some tough times for the organization to weather
through but things are starting to pick back up again,"
"The companies (sponsors), almost without exception, stayed with
us, maybe they couldn't do as much but they continued to
participate at some level, in some way. That's been a big
help," says Chabrian. This year over $450,000 in scholarships
will be awarded.
Back on a positive note, the attendance will be near record this
year with over 2,400 attendees. Over 450 of these are students,
representing over 40 universities.
There is a record for exhibits at this conference, with over 180
booth spaces taken. After starting the first conference with five
tabletop displays, there are now F18 simulators and racecars on
display. Anyone feel the need for speed?
Another, somewhat intangible benefit, Chabrian sees is "the
continued camaraderie of those who participate." Chabrian has heard
attendees come to the conference to "get their batteries recharged
and see that there are other women out here." Chabrian
believes it's like a "reaffirmation that this is a great field to
be in and yes, it's ok to be a woman in an aviation field."
If you want to experience the camaraderie and mentoring, join
WAI And mark your calendar now to attend next years conference in
Nashville (TN) Mar 23-25.