Jill Meyers’ Women in Leadership Award acceptance speech:
"I want to thank the Chamber for this incredible award.
A lot of people ask me why I spend so much time in this volunteer role as President of Women in Aviation San Diego. Because as you heard, my day job is pretty busy. The reasons I do this are to inspire young girls and to provide role models for them so they know they can be anything they want to be. Because I had no role models growing up. And most of the time I was told "no, you can't do that" or "no, you shouldn't do that".
A friend of my dad's took me up in his small plane when I was 13 and that started my love of flying. I got my pilot's license when I was 17 and decided to join the Air Force. I had a full scholarship to Arizona State University and threw it away to join the Air Force. When I told my family I wanted to join, most of them were against it. It was best summed up by my grandmother who said "nice Jewish girls from Philly don't go in the military". Well, I did anyway. And then I was told "No" again. I walked into the Air Force recruiting office with my pilot's license in hand and basically got the "what do you want, honey?" response. I was told that I couldn't fly for them, but I joined anyway. I decided to build airplanes instead and I've been building airplanes ever since.
So what inspires me now to do what I do? Well, here are some statistics for you. Women are 51% of the population but in my own field of Aerospace Engineering, we are just 13%. Women make up only 16% of Air Traffic Controllers, and that number hasn't moved in 20 years. And my all time favorite.... do you know how many women are commercial airline pilots? Just 3%. Yes, 3%. We have many airline pilots in my chapter. Women are flying everything including 777s. One of them, who has been a Captain for many years, told me that a man walked by the cockpit on the way off of the airplane once and stopped and said to her "if I knew you were flying this I would not have gotten on the plane".
You heard earlier about our Girls in Aviation Day event last year. It was amazing and one of the things we did was to have one of those huge Navy helicopters that you see flying around here from Coronado - the MH-60 Seahawk - those huge ones - land at Palomar Airport. It took a lot of paperwork and me signing my life away in case we broke the runway when it landed! Well, we had about 50 young girls there (and a few boys) and when this huge helicopter landed, an all-girl crew got out, including a rescue swimmer, which is rare. The girls got to climb around the aircraft and talk to the crew and put on the helmets for about an hour. A colleague and friend of mine was there that day - actually the woman who so generously nominated me for this award - by the way she is no low achiever herself as she owns a drone company - anyway, Eileen was there with me watching these girls. After awhile she tapped me on the shoulder and put her arm around me and said "you've changed these girls' lives today". And that's why I do what I do.
More About Jill Meyers
Since 2014, when she moved to San Diego, Jill has made a huge impact in the community, primarily in her volunteer role as President of the San Diego Chapter of Women in Aviation International (WAI), a non-profit organization dedicated to the encouragement and advancement of women in all aviation career fields and interests.
Each of the 105 WAI chapters around the world has the ability to set a primary mission, and Jill has steered the San Diego 60-person chapter towards the advancement of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (S.T.E.M.) initiatives in the community.
Jill is a senior manager for Northrop Grumman Corporation, where she manages production of communications and navigation systems for the F-35 “Lightning II” Joint Strike Fighter program. She obtained her pilot’s license at age 17 and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas @ Austin.
She has worked for several companies including Boeing, Raytheon, Eclipse Aviation and others spanning many commercial and defense aviation programs. Jill is an Air Force veteran and since transitioning into the civilian world, has worked closely with all branches of the military. Upon her arrival in San Diego, she built up a collaborative partnership with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for the Chief of Naval Air Forces, Pacific at Naval Air Station North Island.
As President of the San Diego Chapter of Women in Aviation International, Jill leads our nonprofit organization of over 60 members who work in the local community to provide networking and mentoring opportunities to members, and who spend significant time working with young girls to promote aviation and aerospace education and career guidance.
Through Jill’s leadership skills and ability to network in the community, the San Diego Chapter of Women in Aviation International obtained outside funding and sponsorship support for their first ever Aviation Career scholarship to be awarded later this year.
Jill put together the first ever Women in Aviation International Girls in Aviation Day event in San Diego, in September of 2015, providing 50 young girls (and their parents) the opportunity to learn about aviation education, to hear and interact with a career panel of women in all different aviation career fields, and to spend time with a Navy H-60 Seahawk helicopter and it’s all-female crew. Jill understands how important this type of exposure is to real-life successful women in aviation.
As an Ambassador to the FlyGirls TV miniseries development team, Jill organized a successful local event to raise community awareness of the WWII Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), not only telling their stories but letting young girls in our community know there is a path to aviation careers for all who desire to fly.
As a leader and expert in the drone industry, Jill has been an invited guest speaker at several San Diego symposiums to provide her expertise and raise awareness regarding commercial uses of drones and how they can benefit communities in the local area and around the world.