Flying higher

Mentorship program helps break down barriers in aviation and aerospace

Flying higher
Porter Airlines and the Northern Lights Aero Foundation partnered to create a mentorship program in 2018. Credit: Porter Airlines

Women are generally underrepresented in aviation and aerospace. Aviation started out as a male-dominated industry and still is for many roles. So women do not always see the possibilities available when starting out in their careers. 
The Northern Lights Mentorship Program is a way for experienced aviation professionals to pay it forward by connecting with aspiring professionals in this field. 
Porter Airlines and the Northern Lights Aero Foundation partnered to create the program in 2018 as a space for mentors, both male and female, to motivate and inspire women to pursue opportunities in aviation and aerospace, while enhancing their own leadership and communication skills. 
The foundation focuses on encouraging young women to enter careers in any sector of aviation and aerospace by recognizing the achievements of accomplished women in these areas. 
Porter Airlines is committed to bridging the gender gap within all areas of aviation through “Women Soar at Porter,” which focuses on increasing awareness of the vast career opportunities within aviation and aerospace to encourage increased participation of women. 
At Porter, female pilots represent about 13 per cent of the total group, versus about five per cent for the overall industry. Porter has the highest percentage of female pilots in Canada. The mentorship program supports both groups’ missions by connecting professionals who have specific skills and knowledge with women who want to establish and advance their careers. While the mentorship program was a natural next step, the vision and dedication of a Porter pilot helped the program come to life. 
Mentoring others
Julie Beverstein, Porter’s assistant chief pilot, recruitment and retention, joined the Porter team in 2009. Her father — a now-retired airline pilot — served as her mentor early on, encouraging her to work hard and not lose sight of what a great career flying can be. His support, and the support of other role models at Porter, is what inspired Beverstein to share her enthusiasm and to mentor the next generation of pilots.
While acting as Porter’s pilot recruitment ambassador, Beverstein implemented the Early Connection program, which allows pilots working towards their qualifications to connect with the company at an early stage. She also started the First Officer Recruitment Program to mentor pilots graduating from Canadian aviation programs.
As a director at Northern Lights and a leader in recruitment at Porter, Beverstein helped bridge both organizations’ focus on helping young women succeed in the industry, supporting the creation of the Porter-sponsored Northern Lights Mentorship Program.
The program is open to aviation professionals across Canada at every career stage. It helps break down barriers by connecting women with mentors who know the industry, have a passion for what they do, and want to share it with others. No matter where people are in their professional development, the program sees participants supported by someone more experienced or to help someone coming up behind them on the career ladder. 
Three-phase program
Getting support and guidance from a mentor can help those new to the industry decide on the best direction for their career path. The Northern Lights Mentorship Program takes a more holistic approach as it divides the phases of participants’ careers into three parts. Within these pillars, program participants can be both a mentor and a mentee.
The first phase is “Imagining,” and it aims to connect women who are considering a career in aviation or aerospace with a professional who can offer advice. “Training” is the second phase, aimed at women who are already working in the industry or training in their field. The third stage is “Developing,” for women within the industry seeking guidance about how to advance their careers. 
Participation offers mentees: access to new ideas and valuable insights; help learning new competencies; and support solidifying their career goals as they broaden their professional networks. Mentors help participants with practical advice, encouragement and support to help increase their social and academic confidence. 
Mentors gain the opportunity to enhance their own interpersonal, leadership and communication skills, and it’s a great way to strengthen connection to colleagues, build professional relationships and share knowledge. 
The program has garnered much interest, enrolling participants from across the country within various sectors. 
Deanna Stacey is executive sponsor of Women Soar at Porter and vice-president of digital, loyalty, solutions delivery at Porter Airlines in Toronto. For more information, visit

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