By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff
Last year, three women at the helm of LaGuardia Airport’s management piloted a program aimed at connecting and empowering women in aviation. Now, less than a year later, WOW – short for Women Empowering Other Women — is already 50 members strong and growing.
LaGuardia General Manager Lysa Scully remembers brainstorming with her colleagues, Senior Policy Analyst Madeline Arango and Assistant Manager of Airport Maintenance Michele Delgado, about how to address the need for women-focused mentorship and networking communities at the airport.
“We had been doing annual events around International Women’s Day to recognize women and their contributions, but we knew we wanted to go far beyond that,” Scully said.
Delgado and Arango stepped up to the challenge. According to Delgado, they wanted to form WOW as a safe place where women could share their experiences, as well as support and inspire each other. After all, the aviation staff at LaGuardia Airport is about 20 percent female.
“Initially, there was some hesitation on my part because I had only been at LaGuardia for nine months, and I didn’t know that many people,” Delgado recalls. “I wanted to make sure the group represented what people wanted to have, rather than just what I wanted it to be.”
Chanelle Thomas Henry, the Community Outreach Manager for the LaGuardia Redevelopment project, hasn’t missed a meeting since the group started about nine months ago. “I like coming to WOW meetings because it’s a place where I can relate to other people’s struggles and challenges — everyone from interns to top executives,” she said.
At a recent meeting, about 30 WOW members heard stories and advice from Jane Garvey, the first female head of the Federal Aviation Administration who served under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Garvey spoke about balancing raising a family while working in government offices far from home. She also shared how she made her voice heard in predominantly male workplaces. “As women, we tend to hold back more than males,” she said. “Always be prepared and be a good listener. Your voice is just as important as everybody else’s.”
Through organizing community service and networking opportunities with the group, Arango and Delgado feel they are filling a void in their colleagues’ careers. “One woman told me that she had been searching for a group like this to be a part of. That made me feel good, like we are doing something that adds real value to the day-to-day lives of our members,” Arango said.
Delgado added, “Women come to the meetings on their free time because they want to. I’m proud of the effort and time they put into this group on top of a full-time job.”
WOW’s early success has Arango and Delgado excited about what’s to come. “I’m looking forward to hopefully fulling people’s expectations by growing the group’s scope, accomplishments and reach in 2019 and beyond,” Arango said.