Marion Blakey - Aerospace Industries Association
President and CEO
Marion C. Blakey is president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. AIA is the most authoritative and influential voice of the aerospace and defense industry, representing over 340 leading manufacturers and associate members.
Ms. Blakey became the eighth chief executive of the association in 2007. Before that, she served a five-year term as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
As FAA administrator, Blakey regulated the nation’s airways as well as operated the world's largest air traffic control system managing 44,000 employees and a $14 billion budget. During her tenure, the traveling public experienced the safest period for air travel in the United States' history.
Why do you believe STEM Education and Workforce are important to the nation?
We need an education system that is able to produce the high-tech workforce that will keep the United States competitive with the rest of the world. Competitiveness is more than just tools on the factory floor or experiments in the research lab. Intellectual capital drives innovation. You can’t put up fences around innovation; you just have to be faster and more nimble than your competitors. That boils down to education in our STEM subjects starting in grade school right through advanced education curriculum.
Of what one initiative are you most proud?
The Aerospace Industries Association, along with a number of partners, just completed the 10th annual Team American Rocketry Challenge. It was very heart-warming to have the opportunity to be part of the awards ceremony this May. The contest challenges middle and high school students to design, build, test and fly a rocket with raw eggs as the payload. This year the rockets had to reach 800 feet during a 43- to 47-second flight. Over the last decade, more than 60,000 young people have participated in TARC. In a 2010 survey of TARC alumni, four out of five respondents said TARC has had a positive impact on their course of study, while 92 percent of participants said they would encourage a friend to pursue STEM-related careers.
What can we do to assure more women leaders in STEM?
There are a number of practices that will result in more women in STEM: mentoring, promoting qualified individuals and leading by example. In the aerospace and defense industry, we’re seeing a number of women being appointed into senior positions and a few are becoming CEOs of major, publicly traded companies. However, we need to do a better job of retaining mid-career women by ensuring that they not only have opportunities for advancement but see others senior to them advance up the career ladder.
How is your organization innovating to promote STEM?
AIA is very active in promoting STEM with our members and in the business community. I believe that aerospace and defense companies are leading the business community in their commitment to STEM. We have to. Due to national security requirements for our workers to have security clearances, we rely on home-grown talent for a lot of our workforce rather than outsourcing. AIA is a founding member of the Business and Industry STEM Education Coalition, a group of more than 40 associations that represent employers of STEM professionals. The coalition has pledged to work with federal, state and local governments and private sector stakeholders to grow our STEM workforce.