Profiles: Women in Aviation
Aviation is a great profession, one I suspect is a passion for many of the people profiled here on the FedEx Blog. Despite many challenges, aviation’s long-term future is bright. One way we can make it brighter is to embrace a diverse workforce and harvest their many viewpoints and experiences to enrich our organization. We certainly believe that’s happening at our company.
We are proud of our diversity record. FedEx was among the first to hire female pilots and now compares favorably in the number of women pilots we have. We also work hard to make sure women are well represented throughout all our air operations, including maintenance, engineering, and safety.
FedEx was built on the dreams of many people and will continue to thrive on such dreams. If you’re interested in pursuing aviation as a career, I encourage you to apply all the passion, determination, and hard work needed to reach your goals, just like these team members. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Frederick W. Smith
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, FedEx Corporation
Mary Murphy – Fleet Captain – Memphis, TN
I remember it was a beautiful winter day in Florida more than 32 years ago when, in a Piper PA-38 Tomahawk, I eagerly took to the skies for the very first time. Wow! What an experience. Looking down at the earth instead of up at the sky, my perspective of life changed forever. That day, I became a pilot, and throughout my career I have always considered myself as a pilot and not as a woman in aviation.
With great support and encouragement from my parents and a few amazing mentors, I navigated the successes and the setbacks of an aviation journey that led me to my current position as a Fleet Captain for FedEx B757/B767 aircraft.
When I recall and occasionally still come across the original and well-known FedEx customer promise of “Absolutely, Positively, Overnight”, it reminds me why FedEx is where I wanted to spend the rest of my aviation career.
Visionary leadership, a corporate culture of innovation and creativity and the People Service Profit philosophy were what initially drew me in. Coupled with my love of flying I knew that strong culture and service heritage at FedEx presented once in a lifetime opportunities at one of the best companies in the world.
FedEx to me, both personally and professionally, has given me the wonderful opportunity for career growth and work life balance, keeping me fulfilled as a pilot, as a wife, as a mother and, yes, as a woman in aviation.
Maureen Patton – Aircraft Mechanic – Memphis, TN
When I was growing up in Rhode Island, I was always fixing things, taking them apart and putting them back together. When you go into the military they give you an aptitude test, and when I joined the Navy I scored very high on that. I didn’t want to be stuck on a boat, so I took the job of jet aircraft mechanic. I tore engines apart and put them back together—I really enjoyed that.
When I left the military I went to work for Continental Airlines in Los Angeles, in the composite shop. I was also working for McDonnell-Douglas at the time, helping to build MD11s in their factory—I worked on the rigging. That was in the early ‘90s. One day a FedEx manager asked me if I was interested in working for FedEx. I really didn’t know much about the company then, but I went for an interview, and two days later I was working for FedEx! I was in heavy maintenance, the C check line. At the time we had 747s there, MD10s, DC10s during the day, and 727s.
I was having fun being an aircraft mechanic, but I knew that I really wanted to go into management someday. There were more opportunities for that in Memphis, so I came here. Sure, it was very different from California, but I was stationed in the Caribbean and went to California and that was a culture shock, then coming from California to Memphis was a culture shock too. Every place is different. I learned that wherever you are, start thinking of it as home. Make it home. You have to be happy. If you’re not happy at home, you’re not going to be happy at work.
Eventually I became senior manager, then managing director. I got into management because I wanted to make a difference. There were things I wasn’t thrilled with as a mechanic, and I knew my peers weren’t either. I knew I could help make those things better—that was my goal. I’ve instilled into my management team that there are three things everyone wants: to be respected, to have their pay taken care of, and for their family to come first. We are a people company and I believe in my people. They always come first.
Aviation is not an easy field, whether you’re a woman or not. I am on call pretty much all the time, and many nights I spend in my office. I have an air mattress in there and it’s very cozy! I don’t expect my people to do a job that I wouldn’t do. On bad weather nights, when conditions are nasty, I’m often out there with them, and I think it gives them a little boost when they see a member of upper management out there with them. You have to understand what’s happening in the operation. In this job, you have to understand the pulse. When it gets a little high you need to calm it down, when it gets a little low you need to push it up.
You definitely have to be a people person. You have to be able to change your hat and talk to all kinds of people. Aircraft maintenance has traditionally been a man’s world in many ways, but I’ve never been treated as inferior just because I’m female. I think once you prove yourself, you’re just like everyone else. You have to have a sense of humor. You have to have a thick skin, and I have a very thick skin. I try to take care of my employees as best I can, and I go above and beyond for them.
My advice to young women would be to consider going into the military. I really think everyone should consider it. What you learn there, you can’t duplicate anywhere else. You learn a lot about yourself, what you can do and not do. You learn structure. You learn to think outside the box because you don’t have someone there helping you all the time. It prepared me for the world I’m in today. The military is a great stepping-stone to a career in aviation, and it’s a great field to be in. I would love to see more women consider it.
Carrollea Hubbard – Senior Aviation Maintenance Line Technician – Anchorage, Alaska.
I am a FedEx Senior Aviation Maintenance Line Technician at the Anchorage hub. I live and work in Anchorage. My dream job was to work as an aircraft mechanic for FedEx. I began my career for the company in Los Angeles in November 1990. I transferred to Alaska in 1992 to work on the ramp at the Anchorage hub. I received an A & P license and B.S. degree from the University of Alaska under the tuition reimbursement program.
I have worked with the Anchorage base maintenance team since 1998. When asked, “What is it like being the only woman on the team?” I can answer that I am not the only woman. I have the privilege of working with Bonnie Marmora, the administrative assistant, two days a week, and together, we help to bring a balance to a workplace that consists mostly of men.
I think working in a “man’s world” provides a woman with insight into the minds of men. There are no significant differences between men and women when it comes down to getting the job done. We are all on the same team, each with a unique personality, just people.
For those of you young women thinking about a job in aviation and having any apprehension about working with practically all men, remember, there are a few good women out there wishing you would join the team.
I love living in Alaska and working outdoors on the airplanes that transit the Anchorage ramp with my husband, Mark. We spend our time off hiking, skiing, camping, fishing, and enjoying the great outdoors with our dog, Scooter.
Alaska is a beautiful state and working at FedEx has provided me with the opportunity to gain an education and skills in order to build a fantastic career. I am finishing my M.S. degree in Career and Technical Education this May. I hope to pursue a position in either TechOps Training or join the FedEx management team in the future.
Bobbi Wells – Managing Director – Air Operations Planning & Analysis
My hero was my Dad and that’s largely because he never once told me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. As an Army Captain, I commanded a supply company responsible for refueling the 3rd Armored Division in central Germany. However, it was sometimes a surprise to discover the Army limited me in certain areas because of rules that didn’t have anything to do with my capability or passion.
At the same time, the Army pushed me to do things I wouldn’t have chosen because they were hard and scary (and often illogical: why would you train to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?). Many of those things were different than if I’d selected another path out of college and had a big impact because we all were pushed to achieve and grow.
Now, as a Managing Director at FedEx, my role is to guide and support the entire fuel management team, which includes flight crews, dispatchers, aircraft mechanics, engineers and analysts. FedEx has given me many opportunities to challenge myself just like the Army did. Here at FedEx, none of us are limited by artificial boundaries on our potential and we share the military’s drive toward excellence.
While I’m often the only woman in the room, I can’t remember ever being made to feel like the only woman. In fact, I’m often surprised when someone remarks that I was the only woman in a meeting. Fortunately, I don’t think of being a woman as a limitation. This is mainly because I don’t think about it at all, but it’s also because I consider being a woman an advantage. I presume the savvy businessmen I work with and for value my participation and input, just as they do everyone else’s at the table.
Another thing my Dad taught me was that I wasn’t learning unless I was falling down. It’s how he taught us to water- and snow-ski, among other things. I think it caused me to understand perseverance and how important it is not to give up, even when things are hard and scary. It also taught me to be less afraid to fail. After all, you don’t break if you fall; you just learn what not to do next time, and eventually you don’t fall at all.
Ultimately I believe women are, and should be, heroes to the people in their lives. Women working in the aviation field haven’t always chosen the easiest path but it really doesn’t matter if you’re doing what you love. We all have an opportunity to impact those around us. It’s what matters most and the best thing we can teach those coming after us—just like my Dad did for me when he made sure I didn’t give myself too many boundaries. Because of him, I know I’m not “just a girl”.
I invite both men and women to appreciate their differences and how well we all can and do fit in, especially at FedEx. We can think too much about our differences, which other women might interpret as a sign they aren’t welcome, but women are very welcome and needed in the aviation field. We just have to invite ourselves in the door. Also, I want fathers of daughters to understand the role they play. Most women I know whose Dad is similar to my Dad feel the same way. It’s one of the best gifts a father can give.
Anita Madanecz, Ramp Agent, Cologne Germany
Each day is unique
How would I sum up my job in three words? Interesting, unique and awesome! There isn’t anything I don’t like about it. I love working with people and aircraft. So what do I do? I’m a ramp agent at the Cologne gateway of FedEx Express.
Ramp agents ensure that our aircraft take off on time and are optimally loaded. We are in charge of all the planning aspects before take-off. My duties include organizing the load on board the aircraft according to weight and balance, flight crew support, optimizing the freight and supervising the ground handling, loading / unloading of the aircraft. In my role, I carry out these tasks by working within my team that includes more than 20 people as well as together with different departments, other ramps, and with the FedEx Control Centers at our hubs in Memphis and Charles de Gaulle near Paris. As a team member of flight operations, I liaise between the apron, which is the ground movement area of the aircraft, and the pilots. Every day is different and brings new challenges. Every year we have to renew our licenses for all the different types of aircraft we work with and for handling dangerous goods.
Especially during the winter months, we sometimes have to deal with challenging situations like de-icing the aircraft, flight diversions, and contingency situations. Time is a very important factor in our profession: we have to make decisions in a timely manner. It is essential that all the aircraft depart on time: every day we do our best to make it happen. When the aircraft finally departs, I am always proud to have played my role, and I am proud of being part of something important every day. Flight operation truly is a team effort – the pilots, the control centres, the mechanics and, of course, the ground crew and the ramp agents – without us working all together, our aircraft would not be ready for take-off.
Ramp agents are team players
So what are the key ingredients for my job? Above all, you need to have a passion for aircraft, be a team player and not mind bad weather or working late at night. Shift work is a major part of our job. This is definitely not a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday office job. Ramp agents work across different shifts; I usually work the late shift, which starts at 4.30 p.m. and ends around 1.30 a.m. Sometimes we work at the weekend, though we get time off during the week in exchange.
I have been working for FedEx since 2008. I started during university as a part-time ramp agent in Hungary – or to me more precise, in Budapest, my home town. I still remember my first day clearly. When my manager explained to me everything that ramp agents do, I thought “Oh dear, will I be able to cope with all this?” But with time and experience, you learn to juggle multiple tasks. When I had finished my studies and earned a degree in Project Management, I heard that they were looking for people in the new gateway for Central and Eastern Europe in Cologne. I applied, and got the job. I’ve been working there since 2011.
It’s mostly men working on the apron, loading and unloading the aircraft. Some of them have been doing it for 35 years. At first it felt a little strange for me as a young woman to give them instructions. But I’ve got used to it and so have they. I firmly believe it doesn’t make a difference if you’re a woman or a man – as long as you have the know-how and a structured approach to working. Could I imagine doing this for the rest of my life? I guess so. But one thing is for sure – whatever job I do, I just need to be close to aircraft!