Promoting Diversity in the UAS Field and Closing the Gender Gap

Promoting Diversity in the UAS Field and Closing the Gender Gap

March 8 marks International Women’s Day, and GENIUS NY has a lot of incredible women to recognize. International Women’s Day serves as a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity and fostering a more inclusive world.

In recent years, the uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) industry has experienced exponential growth, revolutionizing various sectors from agriculture to healthcare. Even in just seven years with GENIUS NY, the program has seen a 50% increase in applications each year. However, despite this rapid expansion, the industry continues to face a significant gender gap.

According to a report by the Aerospace Industries Association, women represent only about 10-15% of the aerospace workforce, including the UAS sector. On top of this, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports that only 5% of certified drone pilots in the United States are women.

Encouraging and promoting the involvement of women in this field is not only a matter of equality but also a strategic imperative for fostering innovation, diversity, and sustainable growth.

The GENIUS NY accelerator boasts strong leadership from women like Kara Jones, Director of GENIUS NY, who has been instrumental since the program’s inception in 2017. “We take pride in the contributions of all women on the GENIUS NY staff. Additionally, we’re committed to fostering greater diversity across the board, including among our applicants, selected teams, mentors, and advisors,” said Jones, “I’ve witnessed how women bring unique perspectives and talents to the UAS space and it’s time to acknowledge that women are undeniably badass and belong here.”

Closing the gender gap in the UAS and drone industry requires concerted efforts from industry stakeholders, policymakers, educational institutions, and the broader community.

Jennifer Sertl, Marketing Director at Circle Optics, a GENIUS NY portfolio company, was asked what steps she thinks organizations can take to create more inclusive and supportive environments for women in UAS. “At Circle Optics, I worked with our COO Ian Gauger to create a behavioral brand: innovation, synergy and know-how that outlines our core values and allows us to interview people through a filter that is based on ideology. We hope this process allows us to attract and retain the best technical engineers and minimize unconscious cognitive bias.

Organizations like Women and Drones and the impactful efforts of figures like DroneGirl cannot be overlooked. Their tireless advocacy, support, and representation play a crucial role in amplifying the voices and visibility of women in the UAS industry. Their work not only inspires but also paves the way for greater gender diversity and inclusivity.

Elise Hereth, Operations Supervisor at NUAIR says, “I’m retired from the Air Force and was hired by NUAIR because of my technical background as an operator and leader using radar/sensor systems. When I signed up for the USAF in the 80’s it was even more rare for women.” Hereth goes on to say, “I’d advise women of any age, to pursue what interests them, learn as much as you can, and make yourself a valuable team member. Tech fields are a great place for women to be and I’ve been able to be part of professional inclusive teams, both in and out of the military. UAS and aviation is underrepresented by women who have tremendous opportunities to learn and to lead.”

GENIUS NY is committed to fostering diversity by actively seeking and welcoming startup teams led by women to apply. With applications now open, prioritizing the recruitment of women-led teams stands as one of our foremost objectives. To learn more and apply to GENIUS NY click here. You can also refer a women-led team by clicking here.

By fostering an inclusive and supportive environment, promoting STEM education for girls, and actively recruiting and retaining women in the workforce, we can create a more equitable and prosperous future for the industry as a whole.

Now, let’s shine a spotlight on some of the outstanding women contributing to and working in the UAS industry. If you weren’t mentioned this time, know that we recognize and stand behind you. A heartfelt thank you to all the incredible women out there!

GENIUS NY Companies:
Jennifer Sertl – Marketing Director, Circle Optics
Mariah Murray – VP of Operations, AVSS
Irina Statch – Supply Chain Manager, AVSS
Oana Andreea Jinga – Cofounder, Dexory
Izabela Potasz – Chief of Staff, VUMO AI
Emily Limpert – Director of Business Development, Aloft | Part 107 Pilot
Alicia Titus – Software Engineer, ResilienX
Maria Fernanda Jiménez – Marketing Intern, VOTIX

Kara Jones – Director
Rebecca Title-Aretsky – Marketing and Events Coordinator
Becca Breeden – Entrepreneurial Manager
Beverly Mack – Operations Manager

Partners at NUAIR:
Melinda Marion – Director Business Development, NUAIR |Private Pilot and Part 107 Pilot
Megan Crout– Director of Marketing, NUAIR | Part 107 Pilot
Emily DeMarche – Chief Financial Officer, NUAIR
Melanie Kalisz – Revenue Life Cycle Manager, NUAIR
Elise Hereth – Operations Supervisor, NUAIR
Judy Van Wie – Director of Finance
Kristina Williams – Business Operations Manager

GENIUS NY Evaluators & Finals Judges:
Marcia Mitchell – New York Ventures
Maria Tranquilli – Southwest Mission Acceleration Center (MAC)
Gretchen Wilson – Commercial Drone Alliance
Eszter Kovacs – Murzilli Consulting

GENIUS NY VC Partners:
Charlotte Japp – Global Head of Platform, ff Venture Capital
Nandini Agarwal – Senior Associate, ff Venture Capital
Olivia Goldstein – CEO, Upstate Venture Connect
Noa Simons – President and CEO, Upstate Capital Association of New York
Jennifer Tegan – President, NY Ventures
Elizabeth Reynolds – Starburst Aerospace

Thank you to Empire State Development for funding GENIUS NY:
Governor Hochul, Governor, New York State
Hope Knight, Commissioner, Empire State Development

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