Ratio of women in aerospace unchanged for 20 years

The percentage of women working in the aerospace industry in Washington has remained stagnant for more than 20 years, according to a state labor market economist.

Women account for 1 in 4 jobs in aerospace, a ratio that has changed little since the 1990s, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, an Employment Security Department economist based in Everett.

“I try not to go in with too many preconceived ideas when looking at the data,” Vance-Sherman said. “I knew it was going to be a male-dominated industry, but I thought there was going to be some change.”

That snapshot is for the entire industry, from accountants and receptionists to machinists and CEOs.

The percentage is even lower when focusing on engineers and management.

“It’s far fewer,” said Sue Chodakewitz, chairwoman of Women in Aerospace, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in the industry. “It’s not just CEOs. It’s senior managers and executives.”

On the positive side, women who work in aerospace in Washington make far more than men and women in other professions.

And while there’s a wage gap between the genders within aerospace, it’s been narrowing slowly and surely.

The numbers aren’t surprising for people who work within the industry, said Melanie Jordan, the chief operating officer for Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance.

But Jordan said she’s seen changes within the industry during her career. She now sees women in every niche of the aerospace industry.

“What we need to do is encourage our young people and young women, to … engage them in math and science in everyday life,” Jordan said.

Vance-Sherman did her research when she was asked to give a talk at a Women in Aerospace luncheon hosted by the PNAA this summer. The focus of the conference was the changing demographics of the aerospace workforce.

“I found that overall, when we’re talking about gender, the aerospace workforce is, give or take since the early 1990s, about 25 percent of the workforce,” she said.

When looking at wages, Vance-Sherman found that there’s a wage gap between men and women who work in aerospace.

Men who work in aerospace made on average $89,943 a year compared to $77,016 a year for women, according to Census data from 2012, the most recent available data.

Women in aerospace make far more than men and women in other professions in the state.

The average wage for men in Washington is $65,463 a year. Women in the aerospace industry in Washington make almost double the $40,932 for women in other jobs.

And the wage gap between genders in aerospace is narrowing, while it’s not doing so as quickly in other industries.

In the early 1990s, women in the aerospace industry made about 60 cents for every dollar that men made. That’s increased to more than 80 cents on the dollar. In other professions, women made about 60 cents for every dollar that men made in the early 1990s.

And that has stayed the same over the years.

Aviation Week takes an annual look at demographic data for the aerospace and defense industry each year. In numbers released last month, the publication found that just 15 percent of engineers are women. And that just 11 percent of women occupy senior engineering executive positions.

The gender gap is an issue that troubles academics, said Carole Rickard Hedden, executive editorial director for Aviation Week.

Engineering schools also see low numbers of women students.

“They are flummoxed,” she said. “If they can’t move their needle, the companies can’t move theirs.”

There are probably all sorts of reasons for the gender gap, said Chodakewitz of the nonprofit Women in Aerospace.

She said it’s a bit like the construction industry, which is thought to be such a traditionally male domain that women gravitate away from it as a career choice. She notes that just 5 percent of pilots are women.

And that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, she said.

“I don’t think there’s anything inherent in the aerospace industry that would be a roadblock for any competent engineer of either gender,” Chodakewitz said. “There may not be the models in place for young women who are deciding what path to choose in their career.”

There’s an opportunity for change to happen quickly, said Jordan of PNAA.

The baby boomer generation is reaching retirement age.

As they leave the workforce, there will be more opportunities for women in younger generations.

“When you look around you see a lot of women in aerospace,” Jordan said. “They may not be engineers and they may not be in the executive suites, but there are more opportunities to do that.”

What needs to happen is for young women and girls to take the science, technology, engineering and math courses — the STEM courses, Jordan said.

Women within the industry need to mentor young women to keep them inspired to stay on the course from very early ages through college, she said.

For her part, Vance-Sherman hopes that the research will lead people to ask further questions.

“It’s not really my place to answer those questions,” Vance-Sherman said. “My role is providing information to help industry leaders and help people throughout out state make well-informed decisions.”

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Emily Newman, here with Miranda the cat, bought Main Street Books in Monroe in 2012. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Saturday’s the time to show independent bookstores some love

The owner of Main Street Books in Monroe has been a bibliophile since a library was her second home.

The Dreamlifter Operations Center at Paine Field airport on June 6, 2019. The operations center is located next the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center. (Janice Podsada / Herald file)
FedEx said to be in talks to take over Dreamlifter center

The air cargo carrier would need federal approval to establish regular service from Paine Field in Everett.

Brecca Yates, left, helps guide dental student Kaylee Andrews through a crown prep exercise at Northshore Dental Assisting Academy on Friday, April 9, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dental staffing shortages are more than a pain in the mouth

With hundreds of open hygienist and assistant positions statewide, local dentists are short-handed.

Exterior of the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Tulalip Tribes reach deal with state on sports betting

If all goes to plan, the tribes could get federal approval for sports books at two casinos by the fall.

Demolition of the YMCA in downtown continues on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Apartments will rise from the site of the former YMCA annex

In all, 260 units are planned for the downtown Everett site. The older brick building will remain.

FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2011 file photo, Nielsen Company CEO David Calhoun, center, watches progress as he waits for the company's IPO to begin trading, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Boeing CEO David Calhoun declined a salary and performance bonus for most of 2020 but still received stock benefits that pushed the estimated value of his compensation to more than $21 million, according to a regulatory filing Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Boeing extends potential term for CEO before annual meeting

David Calhoun, who replaced Dennis Muilenburg, has been CEO since January 2020.

The Dreamlifter Operations Center at Paine Field airport on June 6, 2019. The operations center is located next the the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center. (Janice Podsada / Herald file)
FedEx nears Paine Field deal as Boeing abandons Dreamlifter

Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson called the possibility of new cargo flights “really unfortunate.”

Rescuers carry a part of aircraft recovered from Java Sea where a Sriwijaya Air passenger jet crashed, at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. The search for the black boxes of a crashed Sriwijaya Air jet intensified Monday to boost the investigation into what caused the plane carrying dozens of people to nosedive at high velocity into the Java Sea. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
Lawsuit over 737 crash alleges autothrottle malfunction

A preliminary report indicates that pilots had repeatedly reported the problem days earlier.

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2020 file photo, traffic passes the Boeing airplane production plant, in Everett, Wash.  U.S. manufacturers expanded in March 2021 at the fastest pace in 37 years, a sign of strengthening demand as the pandemic wanes and government emergency aid flows through the economy.  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)
Boeing sees uptick in airplane orders as travel picks up

The company in April delivered 19 Maxes, three 737s for military use and seven larger widebody planes.

Signs from the Department of Ecology warning about contamination in the creek that runs through Powder Mill Gulch on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State order targets Boeing Everett plant’s polluted history

Records show a dispute over cleanup requirements for chemically tainted water. The company denies there’s a disagreement.

FILE- In this Sept. 30, 2020, file photo, a Boeing 737 Max jet, piloted by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Steve Dickson, prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle. Boeing says it has informed 16 of its customers that they should address a possible electrical issue in certain 737 Max aircraft before using them further. Boeing said Friday, April 9, 2021, that the recommendation was made “to allow for verification that a sufficient ground path exists for a component of the electrical power system.” (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing: possible electrical issue in some 737 Max aircraft

The company said that the new problem was unrelated to the flight-control system.

The 214-foot tall cranes work to unload their first cargo shipments at South Terminal at the Port of Everett on Thursday, April 8, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Renovated Port of Everett terminal gets first cargo customer

The 655-foot Westwood Columbia is the first ship to call at the newly upgraded South Terminal dock.