Aviation | Women in Leadership
The following articles provide inspiring stories by female leaders within WMO's Standing Committee on Services for Aviation (SC-AVI). WMO is committed to promoting gender mainstreaming and to empowering more women to hold leadership roles in aeronautical meteorology.
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WMO Regional Association I (Africa)
Gaborekwe Khambule, South African Weather Service, South Africa (November 2020)
When I was growing up, I used to wonder how my father was able to accurately predict the weather by simply observing the wind and cloud formations, yet he had not been to school. It was only when I studied Geography at school that I got to learn about the basic science behind the weather. My geography teacher once asked: “imagine you were a meteorologist sailing from Marion to Gough Island, if you ignored the currents how long will it take you?” I grew up in rural area and without any exposure to career guidance, there was no way I was going to answer this question.
Nevertheless, I was curious to know who “Meteorologist” were and what to study to become one. My geography teacher told me that I needed to study meteorology, however, it was reserved for white South Africans only. In 1983, the Department of Transport made a call for first learners to enrol for Diploma in Meteorology. I was one of the seven learners (two females and five males) who took up this opportunity and that’s when my career took off. In 1987, I obtained my National Diploma in Meteorology which qualified me as the first black female meteorologist in the country.
I studied further and obtained my National Higher Diploma in Meteorology in 1989. All this time, I worked as an observer and a forecaster at one of the homelands. In 1995, I started as an aeronautical meteorological forecaster at one of Africa’s biggest and busiest airport (O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg). I later became an Assistant Director in a supervisory capacity based at the Central Forecasting office for marine, public and aviation forecasting. I have been in the forecasting bench for 15 years. During this period, I was also involved in ICAO and WMO activities as I served in various ICAO Subgroups and WMO expert teams as a member and chair.
My contribution in aeronautical meteorology was also recognised nationally, regionally and internationally. I was awarded Aviation Professional of the Year 2019 through South African Civil Aviation Industry awards (see photo). This has been very fulfilling, and I remain positive to encourage young and upcoming young women in the organisation. The foundation has been laid and I am confident that the past is behind, and the future is bright for women in the organisation.
As my career evolved, I became involved in strategic decision-making processes within my organisation and this is when I realised that I needed to acquire managerial skills and knowledge. This forced me to study management diploma and Master is Business Administration both of which I completed in 2011 and 2016 respectively.
Amongst the position I hold are: (1) Senior Manager: Aeronautical Meteorology; (2) Vice-chair on WMO Standing Committee of Aviation; (3) Vice Chair: APIRG Information and Infrastructure Management Sub-Group.
WMO Regional Association II (Asia)
Sum Yee (Sharon) Lau, Hong Kong Observatory, Hong Kong, China (November 2020)
Traditionally weather forecasting is highly scientific and has always been a male-dominated profession. The association of weather with the female was mainly the perception that women’s moods are as unpredictable as the weather exemplified by having tropical cyclones named after women. The weather girl is only chosen to give a soft presentation of hard weather information. In line with the global trend for gender equality, the Hong Kong Observatory appointed its first female scientific officer in 1974. A lot has changed since then. Tropical cyclones are no longer named after women and, currently, of five directorates at the Observatory, two of them are female.
I have the good fortune to have personally experienced this change. My involvement in WMO’s Standing Committee on Services for Aviation (SC-AVI) has a lot to do with the opportunities that were opened to me in the early years of my career. I started attending the ICAO regional meetings within 5 years of my joining the Observatory. At my first WMO Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology (CAeM) meeting, I was invited to chair a session on training. I had no prior experience to speak of, but was ably assisted by the Secretariat. That first meeting sealed my involvement with CAeM and now SC-AVI. As the co-lead of the SC-AVI Expert Team on Aeronautical Meteorological Hazard Science (EN-MHS) with Matt Strahan, we are tasked to facilitate the advancement of scientific and technological research and innovation to improve the observation, forecasting and warning of aeronautical meteorological hazards.
For my promotion to Assistant Director of the Observatory in charge of aviation weather services in Hong Kong, thanks should go to my seniors who put so much trust in me and provided many opportunities for me. The development of the system to alert pilots of terrain windshear and turbulence which could occur even in clear air at the Hong Kong International Airport was a real challenge. But as the saying goes, challenge and opportunity go hand in hand. We rose to the challenge as being the world-first to introduce LIDAR for windshear detection.
Being a small meteorological service, it is no easy task to keep pace with international development in aviation meteorology. So is breaking the glass ceiling. Taking every opportunity that opened up, and persevering, has helped me along. As female meteorologists, we have shown the world that we are equally capable. Many more talented young women have now joined the profession, so do not underestimate your potential
WMO Regional Association III (South America)
Claudia Ribero, Servicio Meteorológico Nacional, Argentina (November 2020)
I currently work for Servicio Meteorológico Nacional (SMN) in Buenos Aires, Argentina as part of the Directorate of Aeronautical Meteorology of SMN. I studied Meteorology in Buenos Aires University (UBA). After I finished my studies I started to look for a job for almost a year. I was finally able to work as a forecaster assistant in the Centro Meteorológico del Servicio de Hidrografia Naval, at Buenos Aires city. Interested in meteorology for aviation, I applied for a position as an aeronautical meteorology forecaster and I was able to cover that offered position in Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, an airport with more than 400 domestic and regional movements per day in those times. Aeroparque Jorge Newbery MET Office performs functions of aerodrome meteorological office (AMO) and meteorological watch office (MWO) for the Ezeiza (EZE) flight information region, and it relies on the Argentinean national meteorological service.
I have had the great opportunity to support aviation activities as a forecaster of Centro Meteorológico Marambio in Antarctica as well.
In addition, after many years serving as a forecaster, I started to collaborate in the Aeronautical Meteorology Department to implement the Quality Management System (QMS) for MET services based on ISO 9001:2008. Meanwhile, I developed a fog conditions climatology study of the Aeroparque Jorge Newbery with my colleague Roxana Vasques Ferro. At the same time, I obtained my degree in Social Science specialized in Public Policies because I was interested in how to improve the public services addressed to the aviation community. So that, between other activities, I started to collaborate as a MET QMS expert in the regional ICAO group and others ICAO MET regional projects. After ICAO restructuring, I was invited to participate as the expert Member nominated by Agrentina of the global ICAO Meteorology Panel (METP).
I have been collaborating in the WMO expert team/expert network since 2018 within the former Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology (CAeM). Following WMO governance reform in 2020, I have now become a core member of the new Standing Committee on Services for Aviation (SC-AVI). Currently, I serve as an SC-AVI coordinator for gender mainstreaming.
Finally, my message especially for all our dear worldwide community of women in aeronautical meteorological services is that I am convinced aeronautical meteorology is a challenging arena for professional women, because aviation is in constant change and innovation and, like aviation, is a male-dominated field. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on our dear aviation community, I am completely sure that we should take the challenge and go towards capacity building and women empowerment more than ever.
Take the challenge…because ‘weather time’ flies!
WMO Regional Association IV (North America, Central America and the Caribbean)
Kathy-Ann Caesar, Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, British Caribbean Territories (November 2020)
I have spent most of my working career in meteorology, first as a meteorological assistant in the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service (TTMS) to my present position as the Chief Meteorologist at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH). A career which has been focused on serving the Caribbean region and the promotion of the science of meteorology.
I began my dream job in meteorology as Meteorological Assistant in Trinidad in 1983. Leaving in 1988 to further my studies, I graduated in 1992 from the State University of New York. Brockport, Cum Laude with a B.Sc. in Meteorology with Mathematics; and gained my Master’s degree in Meteorology from Texas A&M University in 1995; where I discovered my passion for research and teaching.
Returning to TTMS I was appointed Meteorologist II, the only female forecaster on the roster and second ever in the Service. As a forecaster, I was offered an opportunity to take part in the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) Meteorology II Group Training Course, a management training for Senior Meteorologists and was honestly told I was only offered because I was the only one who met the age requirement. Upon return, I was promoted to Meteorologist III, included the responsibilities of forecast office supervisor, training officer, and senior forecaster. Briefly, in 1999 I worked in the post of Meteorologist IV/Chief forecast officer for the TTMS Forecast office.
In 2000, I took the opportunity to move the CIMH in Barbados as a Meteorologist/lecturer. I lectured in the Senior Level Meteorological Technicians’ (SLMT) and the first-year meteorology courses at the UWI Cave Hill campus. Then, one of two female academic staff members, the CIMH environment was one of supportive and encouraged growth. Mentored in the integrity and high standards of the CIMH training, in a few short years I earned the appointment to the post of coordinator for SLMT course. From the onset, I was focused on continuing the tradition of ensuring that the trainee forecasters were fully prepared for operational duties. As the Head of the Meteorology Section and the Coordinator of UWI, Cave Hill Meteorology Department, it continues to be my privilege to maintain these training programmes, which have been adjudged one of the world’s best in the WMO 2017 Assessment Report of WMO Regional Training Center (RTC), Barbados.
Invited in 2009 to be a part in the Task Team on Aeronautical Forecaster Qualifications (TT-AFQ), I began an unexpected, exciting and impassioned work to serve the international WMO member States in the development of the Aeronautical Competencies, the ‘competency toolkit’ for aviation forecasters. Thereafter I was selected to the WMO Commission on Aeronautical Meteorology (CAeM) ‘Task Team on the Competence Assessment Toolkit’ (TT-CAT) and a trainer in the TT-CAT workshops in Nairobi (2010), Barbados (2011), Guatemala (2012), Qatar (2013) and Argentina (2014). This supported my nomination as a member on the CAeM Expert team for Education, Training and Competency (ET-ETC) in 2012 and later in 2015 to a core member of the ET-ETC. In early 2017, I was appointed as interim co-chair of the ET-ETC, a position I was reappointed to in 2018 and again in 2020 in the new Standing Committee on Aviation (SC-AVI) ET-ETC. For my efforts in the Aeronautical Meteorological community, I was awarded the Certificate for Outstanding Service by the WMO RA IV, 2013, and an Outstanding Service Award from WMO CAeM in 2015 and 2018.
I have served the region in various capacities during my tenure at CIMH in coordination with the Caribbean Meteorological Organization (CMO) as the British Caribbean Territories (BCT) Focal Point on Gender issues 2004 to 2012. I was the co-chair of the WMO Virtual Laboratory (VLab) for Satellite Training from 2012 to 2018.
I have enjoyed working in the field of meteorological training and in the field of aeronautical meteorology. I have become more passionate about the work being done by WMO in attempting to improve and standardize the operations of the regional meteorological services.
WMO Regional Association V (South-West Pacific)
Andrea Henderson, Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (November 2020)
I started working at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology as a forecaster almost 20 years ago. I became a meteorologist because I loved science and I wanted to do something that would make a positive difference in the community. I was drawn to the idea that my day-to-day decisions could have direct and immediate impact on others.
Initially, I wanted to be the person who "chased" thunderstorms across the radar, alerting the public to the impending threat. However, what I found myself enjoying most was not severe weather forecasting at all, but the nuances of forecasting fog, turbulence and aircraft icing. So, I found myself accidentally wandering into a career in aviation meteorology.
Early on in my career, I was fortunate to work for a strong female leader who was an outstanding example of what a female professional should look like: someone who is skilled, knowledgeable, and commands respect from her peers. In fact, she was instrumental in getting me to apply for the newly established aviation competencies position. Though I hadn't considered a role in education, she sold it to me on the grounds that I had a wonderful opportunity to affect real change, establish a nationally consistent approach to forecasting, and uplift our capabilities to deliver a quality service to the aviation industry. Of course, it was hard not to be excited about the possibilities.
It was not long after embarking on this new adventure that I became involved in the (former) CAeM Expert Team for Education and Training (ET-ET). This team was instrumental in working with many experienced professionals to develop a competency framework that would underpin what we know today as the Competency Standards for Aeronautical Meteorological Personnel. Though I was only on this team for a short time, it was a hugely rewarding experience. An opportunity to re-join the team (now known as Expert Team for Education, Training and Competency) as a core member presented in 2015, where I quickly became involved in leading work on the WMO Guide to Competency. It was another ground-breaking opportunity to affect real change in the international community. I am now very fortunate to step up to co-chair the ET-ETC with the esteemed Kathy-Ann Caesar, a great honour indeed.
Because of my background in mathematics and meteorology, I'm used to working in environments that are overwhelmingly populated by men. I'm not typically treated differently because of my gender, and if anything, I've probably received more encouragement because of it. I was concerned that having children would change the landscape of opportunities available to me. Certainly, focussing on my family meant making some professional sacrifices for a period of time. Maintaining networks through this period, and doing what I could when I could, made a profound difference to my ability to increase the pace again as my children got older. It is a credit to the progressive mindset of my managers that my use of flexible working arrangements was never a barrier to success.
I haven't always known where I wanted to be in 5 years' time, but I have driven my career by asking myself 3 key questions: where are the gaps, what aren't we doing that we should be doing, or what are we doing that we could do better? These questions are fundamental to every opportunity I have pursued. My advice to others starting out on their career journey is to follow your passions, but be open to new ideas. If you're like me and you like to make plans, don't be totally inflexible on those plans, be willing to go with the flow a little bit but always stand up for your passions. Find a trusted mentor who is well-connected in your chosen industry and can invest in your professional development and advocate for you. Finally, tap into industry networks, don't be afraid to make yourself known and put your work out there.
WMO Regional Association VI (Europe)
Stephanie Wigniolle, Meteo-France, France (November 2020)
Weather phenomena have fascinated me for a while. When I was a child, I used to leave my bed at night to watch any thunderstorm occurring over the city I was living in. Some family relatives used to travel by air a lot and used to talk about the phenomena encountered, such as tropical convective clouds or auroras. I was amazed and found it exiting to try to understand them. When the geography curriculum at school included a large section about meteorology, it became clear that this domain was definitely the one I wanted to study. I never changed my mind about that and did my best to find the most relevant way within the French educational system to achieve my objective. A strong support from my family was also part of the success especially when I felt that my skill level was not high enough.
After studies in physics and meteorology at the Paris University and at the French Ecole Nationale de la Météorologie, it was in 1993 when I entered the aeronautical meteorology domain in Météo-France. I have been first in charge of developments and coding activities for enhanced functionalities of the Interactive Information Processing System in usage at my organisation. This allowed me to work in close coordination with aviation forecasters, which resulted in a better understanding of their needs.
I progressively joined new working groups involving French aviation community representatives, aiming at collecting users’ needs especially from those operating at major airports in France with a high traffic density.
After several years of coding activities, my aspiration turned towards a managerial role and my management supported me in that transition. In 2008, I was granted the role of manager of the development team of the Météo-France Aviation Forecasting Department. The implementation of enhanced forecasting services to alert all airport operators was a real challenge that I successfully dealt with. A few years later that role changed to the manager of the Research division of the Météo-France Aviation Services Department. With that new function, I had to lead all research activities in the aeronautical meteorology domain in Météo-France, especially the transfer of research into operations including the management of Météo-France contribution to the European SESAR program.
In parallel to a progressively stronger involvement in ICAO meteorological operations groups and study groups since 2006 and more recently the ICAO Meteorology Panel and its working groups, I have acted as a core member and co-chair of several successive WMO Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology (CAeM) expert teams. I kept such a WMO role until the Sixteenth Session of the CAeM in 2018 whereupon I was elected as the Vice-President of the Commission. My thanks went to my senior managers and my colleagues in WMO who put so much trust in me for such roles within the CAeM through to the reform of WMO’s constituent bodies in 2020. Recently, when the president of WMO’s newServices Commission (SERCOM) and Chair of the Standing Committee on Services for Aviation (SC-AVI) selected me as one of the two experts responsible for long-term planning and strategy in the meteorological service for aviation domain it appeared to me that my leadership role held for many years was rewarded.
I would recommend to young women embarking in a career in aeronautical meteorology to persevere given this community is still male-dominated. Weather and atmospheric phenomena have not been created by human beings, they are part of this nature that surrounds us, men and women, and that we are both parts of. For at least that reason women are as capable as men, but with their sensibility, to develop a career in aeronautical meteorology.
Marina Petrova, Roshydromet, Russian Federation (November 2020)
"If there is one certainty in life, it is that the weather changes. So how can we be suitably prepared to meet the challenges of weather change? What recipes can be prepared to get the best out of the weather situations while they appear with us”. These were my congenital inclinations to get to know more about the weather since my childhood, helping me to find myself in the career of a meteorologist.
I did not doubt where to go to study – to the National Research State University in Saratov, one of the oldest in the country, to specialize in meteorology. With five years of concurrent university studies, one of the first things that I needed to do once I had graduated was to plan my individual pathway through varied positions I held, from the forecasting engineer at the aeronautical meteorological station in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, to the senior engineer at the Aeronautical Meteorological Services Department of the USSR State Committee on Hydrometeorology and the chief of the Operational Hydrometeorological and Specialized Services Division of the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (Roshydromet), further to nurturing the establishment of the Meteoagency of Roshydromet in 1998 as an entity of Roshydromet, which comprised 15 branches and then turned to Aviamettelecom of Roshydromet in November 2010 with an enhanced network of 25 branches (coming back to 15 enhanced branches now). This has been a long pathway of gaining in meteorological experience and obtaining a better insight into meteorological science.
In my capacity as Director General of Meteoagency of Roshydromet (and since 2010 ‘Aviamettelecom of Roshydromet’), I had to learn strategies for prioritizing and dealing with a number of significant areas – technical re-equipment of aeronautical meteorological units, quality of meteorological service in support of aviation safety, meteorological methodology, staff development, task-based instructions.
Luckily, I managed to create a team of enthusiastic and dedicated associates, who, on the one hand, empowered me in all of my initiatives and, on the other hand, were directed by me to reach the entity’s goals.
Over the last ten years we enjoyed great success in upgrading 60 aeronautical meteorological centres (AMCs) and aeronautical meteorological stations (AMSs), i.e. one fourth of all Roshydromet’s units, implementing the Federal Targeted Programme on Uniform ATM Modernization. The modernized units are now equipped with advanced automated meteorological systems, communication and power supply systems, hardware and software, meteorological sensors, communication links.
Working in a supportive climate, it is easier to learn more about each person’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing the personnel to draw on the strengths and work on the weaknesses. My key aim has always been to be able to delegate adequate responsibility to staff, give them clear instructions and set reasonable tasks, coordinate the work of a diverse team of people, making sure that jobs did not fall through the cracks and establishing a system in place for communicating vertically and horizontally with one another.
My professional development is closely tied with the international aeronautical and meteorological communities, which provided me with a synoptic overview of professional thinking that summarized a history of method and responsible principles fit in the global and regional framework, generating general operating strategies.
I have been actively involved in the WMO activities since 2002 as member of the Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology (CAeM) Management Group, being invited to co-chair the PROMET OPAG Expert Team on Customer Focus (2002-2006), chair the Expert Team on Customer Relations (ET-CR) (2006-2010), chair the CAeM MG Implementation Coordination Team (2010-2014), co-chair the Expert Team on Communication, Coordination and Partnership (2014-2018), lead the Expert Network on Communications and Outreach (EN-COM) and, eventually, Coordinator for Communications and Outreach in the newly established WMO SERCOM Standing Committee on the Services for Aviation (SC-AVI). Balancing between the regional coordination concept as RA VI Co-Rapporteur on Aviation Meteorology (since 2003) and technical expertise in the above-mentioned positions helps tracing the applications of global and regional resources for planning purposes within the national service.
Of all the awards I have received in my chosen career I deeply appreciate two certificates given to me in recognition of my contribution to the activities of the Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology in 2014 and 2018.
The ability to stay connected to wider WMO community adds fresh impetus for all professionals to go on exploring ways in which services can be viewed as a dynamic system created and progressively adapted by users and reflected in more open and flexible methodologies.
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