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Ohio State hosts new conference to promote diversity in aviation

There is a war for talented employees in the United States, and diversity and inclusion is the new call to arms.

That was the message from Ohio State University graduate Gena Lovett as the keynote speaker for the Center for Aviation Studies’ First Annual Conference on Diversity in Aviation. Lovett is the vice president of manufacturing, safety and quality for the Defense, Space & Security division at Boeing.

Gena LovettGena Lovett“I am living proof as a leader that having a diverse team, considering diverse ideas and diverse experiences really does impact the bottom line. I am a business person and it is about delivering the bottom line,” Lovett said.

Finding and developing talent was critical to Boeing’s continuing success, she said. As a result, it was a business imperative for the world’s largest aerospace company to recruit and promote talented employees – and that required commitment.

“As we’re bringing talent in and we want to hold onto key talent, we have to think differently,” she said. “What I found is there were a ton of hidden gems in plain sight in our company.”

The two-day conference at the Blackwell Inn and Pfahl Conference Center opened on Wednesday for dozens of aviation educators and industry professionals to discuss professional development around diversity and inclusion.

The conference featured panels and discussions on implicit bias, the values of recruiting a diverse workforce and ideas for creating classrooms that are more inclusive.

President Michael V. Drake addressed the conference by noting Ohio’s history as the birthplace of aviation and Ohio State’s history in diversity in aviation. Drake shared the story of Ohio State alumnus Jesse Brown, the first African American naval aviator. Brown died in the Korean War and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Drake said diversity and inclusion is a core value at Ohio State and makes the university a stronger and more creative community.

President Drake Diversity in Aviation conference“When we look at the people coming in now, we see ourselves as a global university. People are coming from all over the country and all places around the world because this is the best place to advance their careers,” he said. “And when they join together collectively, they really have the wisdom of the world.”

Shannon Morrison, curriculum and assessment manager and diversity coordinator for the Center for Aviation Studies, came up with the idea for a diversity conference focused on the aviation industry. She said Ohio State is well positioned to lead this effort because of partnerships in the industry, alumni in leadership positions in aviation and a diverse student population looking for leadership.

“I look at all the young women, all the students of color, LGBTQ students who are going through a program and they need mentors, they need guidance and they choose Ohio State as their institution that they want to earn their degree from. So we need to step up to the plate and be the change we want to see,” Morrison said.