NAV CANADA – Opening Doors for More Women to Find Their Careers in Aviation
NAV CANADA prides itself—with considerable justification—on its commitment to innovation, collaboration, and excellence. NAV CANADA employees not only share that commitment—and their diversity, talent, and relentless pursuit of excellence—they secure NAV CANADA’s position as one of the world’s most respected Air Navigation Service Providers.
Increasingly, those employees are women. In large part, that’s because NAV CANADA is engaged in actively promoting career opportunities for women as part of its overall campaign to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace. “Certainly, our emphasis on diversity focuses on gender,” says President and CEO Neil Wilson, “but it also encompasses age, ethnic background, and sexual orientation. Anything that enables skilled people to bring different ideas and perspectives to the table.”
Four women who have navigated their way into successful careers at NAV CANADA—and who bring a welcome mix of energy and creativity to the workplace every day—are Lyne Wilson, Jennifer Tompkins, Ginette Deslauriers, and Amanda Devine. As Assistant Vice President, Talent Management at NAV CANADA, Lyne Wilson has a unique perspective on the company’s inclusion and diversity initiatives. She describes the atmosphere at NAV CANADA as collaborative, and that ideas and opinions are valued, no matter their source. “That’s the way it was when I was hired in January 2000, and even more so today.”
Still, she acknowledges that women didn’t necessarily think of aviation as a career choice when she was hired. “Too often,” she says, “that’s still the situation and we have to find different ways to bring awareness.” Last year, NAV CANADA unveiled a summer camp program for students about to begin high school. “We have two scheduled this summer,” says Wilson, “one for female students, one for male students. Each camp lasts a week with 24 students attending. NAV CANADA employees act as camp counselors, sharing their personal experiences and providing information about aviation careers.” Today, I feel encouraged to make my own decisions and to share my thoughts and ideas. With management support, NAV CANADA employees have created an engaging workplace.
Jennifer Tompkins, an international flight service specialist based in Gander, Newfoundland, was one of those counselors. She describes the experience as “perhaps the most gratifying thing I’ve done” since joining NAV CANADA in 2001. “I am a mentor and a mentee so I appreciate helping and being helped by people willing to share their experiences,” she says. She sees the summer camps as more evidence that the pace of positive change in the workplace is increasing. “Oldschool thinking is giving way to new-age thought,” she says. “And that’s a good thing.”
Ginette Deslauriers, Assistant Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, joined NAV CANADA in 2001. “Almost immediately,” she recalls, “I was struck by the company’s willingness to give employees every opportunity to contribute and the support to succeed. I was amazed then, as I am today, at the sense of family throughout the company.” As welcoming and inclusive as the environment was then, she says, the push for diversity really took off two years ago when several new measures were introduced to have a more inclusive and diverse workforce. “Today, I feel encouraged to make my own decisions and to share my thoughts and ideas. With management support, NAV CANADA employees have created an engaging workplace,” she says. “No matter who we are, we have the freedom to set our own path, to work as a team but to contribute in our own way.”
In 2000, Amanda Devine, now a manager in Aeronautical Information Management, graduated at the top of her class from Moncton Flight College. One of seven women in a class of 32, she applied to become a pilot at a small charter company in Prince Edward Island. “I was told ‘we don’t normally hire women so if you want to fly for us, you’ll have to prove you can do the job.’ Wow, I thought, so this is the real world,” she says. Six months later, after watching pilots with less accolades (who just happened to be male) get most of the flying time, she quit.
Five years later, and no longer pursuing a career as a pilot, Devine joined NAV CANADA. Five years after that, she approached a national manager for a challenging role in another area of the company. “I certainly wanted the job, but I was afraid personal obligations would prevent me from carrying out many of the tasks the job required,” she recalls. This time, there are no hoops to jump through, no being overlooked because she is a woman. “I was told ‘we’ll work something out. Take the job and we will make this work,’” she says. “Months later, a senior male manager said he felt I had leadership potential and that he would like to mentor me.
For the first time, I realized that I had been limiting myself as a woman, that I had been backing away from opportunities.” Today, Devine is a leader and mentor as well as a mentee. She participates, shares her ideas, offers suggestions. She appreciates and feels appreciated. “And I don’t have to go through any extra hoops to do it.”
Clearly, NAV CANADA is on board. In an industry once regarded as male-oriented, it has opened the door for talented women— like Lyne, Jennifer, Ginette, and Amanda—to assume meaningful roles in helping to keep Canada’s skies safe.