Combating Structural Racism and Sexism in the Aerospace Workforce and Academia

When he recently introduced the concept of structural racism and sexism in the aerospace workforce and academia at AIAA's 2009 Inside Aerospace Forum, Masterflight Foundation Executive Director Mordechai Levin created shockwaves.

Levin noted that 25 years after the publication of “A Nation at Risk” women still comprise less than 4% of engineers in the workforce that hold doctorates in aerospace, electrical and mechanical engineering, and that proportional representation of Hispanics, Blacks, and women has not increased in the aerospace workforce or academia by even one percent in ten years .” He added that, over the past decade, “less than four percent of Air Transport Pilot Certificates were awarded to women.”

Surrounded by scores of the most inspirational players in aerospace history from the past 65 years including the Secretary of the Air Force, Levin called for establishing 2020 as a goal for achieving proportional representation of women and diverse populations in our aerospace education programs.

As a result of his effective impact at the 2008 Inside Aerospace Forum, and at the AIAA Spotlight Awards Gala, Levin was asked to chair a newly created session titled: “Focus on Diversity – Tapping a Virtually Untouched Resource Pool” for the 2009 Inside Aerospace – An International Forum for Aviation and Space Leaders in Arlington, VA. Levin’s synopsis of this session says it all:

“Why aren’t our industry’s demographics closer to the national averages? We’re missing the benefits of these diverse perspectives and skills! The current and projected shortage of aerospace professionals will disappear only when women and members of other traditionally underrepresented groups join the aerospace workforce in proportion to their representation in the overall labor force. This session focuses on removal of barriers that keep minorities or women from pursuing aerospace careers.”


“An approach to resolve this issue, e.g. structural racism and sexism has been proposed for both academia and industry, as follows: Obtain policy statements from the CEOs, board chairs, presidents, or chancellors of the top 100 universities and top 50 aerospace companies. These policies should state the following:

(1) One of the organization’s goals is to achieve proportional representation at all levels (Trustees, Board of Directors, executive officers, faculty, management, staff, and students). That is, their gender, racial, and ethnic composition will be comparable to those of the U.S. labor force.

(2) Nominations (versus appointments) for trustees, board positions, officers, department chairs, faculty, division heads, and managers should have proportionately representative numbers of men, women, and minorities, of equal stature.”

(3) Tenure clock pause and duration for maternity and parental leave are equal for men and women

(4) New hire and promotion orientation specifically details the nomination policy that requires diversity, tenure pause and parental leave, etc.

(5) Financial incentives are available and appropriate, and are aggressively marketed, to women and minorities (e.g., scholarships, stipends, bonus pay, and signing bonuses).

(6)Bonuses will be awarded to top executives for effective minority outreach.”

A copy of the entire report is available at:

Return from Combating Structural Racism to Masterflight Campaign to End Structural Racism and Sexism.