In episode 7 of Vaughn College’s Futureproof Focus Podcast, Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo, president of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, sat down with Migdalia Gonzalez, manager of the Hispanic Employment Program at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for an enlightening conversation about how this agency is helping to improve diversity and inclusion in the aviation industry.

Embracing her skill set

As a Latina woman who heads up the Hispanic Employment Program at the FAA, Gonzales is indeed making strides. Bringing years of experience in other industries, her skillset of cultivating partnerships was the cornerstone for landing this significant role at the agency.

See how Gonzalez’s role at the FAA is making a difference in the lives of Hispanics and others from underrepresented populations—especially women.

How the FAA is making aviation accessible to all

Gonzalez said she has a passion for inspiring and elevating the lives of Latinos and feels honored to be making it happen at the FAA. “Our strength is our people,” she explained. “The goal is to expand and strengthen the line of employees to ensure we get better at serving all populations.” She continued by sharing some interesting facts. Were you aware that Hispanics are the largest underrepressented group in the US? Did you know that the US is the third largest Spanish speaking country in the world? “It’s all about connecting the dots and showing them the opportunities,” Gonzalez said.

Educating Hispanic women that jobs in aviation are an option

It’s not surprising to learn that the aviation industry is predominantly male. Gonzalez shared her thoughts on this and explained how women of color are gravitating more toward jobs in the industries of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) rather than aviation. When asked why aviation is not in the running, she replied: “We need more exposure. Women of color have the lowest numbers in the aviation industry because they’re not aware of what positions are available to them.”

She also explained how cultural issues are among the main reasons why Latino women shy away from careers in aviation. “For the most part, the traditional Hispanic family largely believes being a pilot is a man’s job,” she said. “Girls are raised that a job in aviation is not an option for them, so they are often surprised to learn that it is! Just look at the amazing opportunities Vaughn College provides for women and others from under-resourced communities.” She noted that although change is never easy, the trend is improving little by little.

The FAA’s Hispanic Employment Program goals

First and foremost, Gonzalez stated that safety is the mission of the FAA. “We are the largest agency under the Department of Transportation,” she said. “I’m honored to be the first to serve in this role after 10 years. The program was affected over the years due to budget cuts, but we are making great progress through recent programs and initiatives.”

Some of the ways in which the FAA’s Hispanic Employment Program is making a difference:

  • Creating mentorship programs for employees
  • Empowering underrepresented women to showcase their skillsets
  • Organizing outreach events at Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) to make students aware of the career possibilities at the FAA. The agency recently held an event in Puerto Rico and is scheduled to appear at Vaughn College soon
  • Educating parents of children (in kindergarten through twelfth grade) about the career possibilities in aviation
  • Provide technical guidance to ensure Hispanic populations are given full consideration when employment decisions are being made

How internships provide a gateway for underrepresented groups

Gonzalez said that last year, the agency received its largest number of internship applications from the Latino community. “We are proud to give everyone their fair chance to apply for one of our paid internships,” she said. “We are educating the future and attracting talent that we might never have known we needed.”

At the end of the day, Gonzalez said it’s all about creating a diverse workforce—and not just pilots. The FAA employs attorneys, accountants, project managers, mechanics and even a medical team. “It’s important to realize that diversity begins with diverse thoughts. It’s not just about black and white. It’s about someone’s experiences and skillsets that helps support the culture we have at the FAA, so we can look like the communities we serve.”

Listen to episode 7 featuring Migdalia Gonzalez today.

Is diversity important to you when choosing a college? Read how Vaughn meets this need.