Sunday, September 09, 2018

Beverly Regional Airport (KBVY) women make way in aviation, air traffic control

Gloria Bouillon,  Mary Parsons and Mary Wertel

BEVERLY— From a young age, Gloria Bouillon knew she wanted to fly. 

"I had always just dreamed about flying," Bouillon said. "From an early start I knew that was what I was going to be. I was flying before I could drive.”

As a child, Bouillon wanted to be the first woman in space. But as a teenager, the new airport manager at Beverly Regional Airport turned her attention to aviation. She's been in love with all things flying, airplanes, and airports ever since. 

"I can't imagine leaving the aviation field," she added. "It's called 'the bug.' You get it and you don't leave it."

Bouillon is the first female airport manager at Beverly Regional Airport. As manager, Bouillon handles a number of financial and regulatory responsibilities, among others. 

The airport also gained two female air traffic controllers this summer, Mary Wertel and Mary Parsons. Wertel said she got involved as an air traffic controller when she joined the Navy in the 1980s. Parsons was living in Alaska in the 1990s when she took a tour of the Anchorage Air Control Tower and decided to take a test to become a traffic controller. 

The trio are among a small number of women who work in the field of aviation, airports, and air traffic control.

Only seven percent of all United States pilots, including student, recreational, sport, and commercial pilots, as of December 2017 were women, according to a recent report by the Federal Aviation Administration.

That number also includes those with certificates to fly planes, gliders, helicopters, and/or gyroplanes. 

Bouillon said she has often been the only woman in her various roles in airports. 

"You're held to the same standards as everyone else," she said. 

While she has looked up to women in powerful roles in the airport industry, Bouillon said her mentors have been mostly male.

“As far as the aviation community, they really have embraced females," she said. "It's encouraged a lot and I have seen that here. It's a really good, supportive community.” 

On dealing with sexism

Still, Bouillon, Parsons and Wertel have all experienced gender bias in their careers. 

“To be honest, there have been some sexist comments throughout the years, but you just deal with it, brush it off, and keep going,” Bouillon said.

Parsons and Wertel agreed, and said they haven't allowed instances of sexism to impact their careers.

“You don't focus on it,” Parsons said.

“I've heard comments and it's like, whatever, I'm doing my job,” Wertel said. “I'm qualified to do the same things these men are doing.”

Bouillon said she has seen a shift in the industry.

“I don't know what it was like earlier on in aviation in the '50s and '60s," she said. "I don't know what it was really like historically, but I've seen that change. When I was flying in high school, I wouldn't say you had more of those comments, but they said it more to your face. Now if it is happening, I don't hear it." 

While she was a student at Dowling College in Long Island, New York, Bouillon founded a chapter of Women in Aviation, an international organization that fosters growth and opportunities for both women and men in the field. 

"For me, I'm aware of it, but it's not something that stopped me from speaking up," Bouillon said. "I'm not going to be the quiet one in the room because I'm allowing something to happen just because I'm the only female. That was never the case. It was always, well this is my perspective on this, but it has been in the back of my mind especially coming into management."

She said along the way she learned how to handle sexism in the workplace, and that by listening, observing, and getting to know the dynamic of a group of people, she's been able to decide how to move forward.

"I've had to learn ways to confront people who are either trying to talk over you, overstep you, or they'll interrupt you," Bouillon said. "I have noticed that. I had to learn ways of, OK, how do I deal with this stronger personality and is it because I'm female?"

"You do evaluate, well, am I strong enough?" She added. "It's never stopped me from speaking up on whatever it is."

Wertel said she was also among a small percentage of women while in the Navy.

“At a lot of the places I was at there was maybe one or two women and then there was mostly men," Wertel said. "For the most part it was good. You had a couple of the old sailors that first came in Vietnam and they had a little trouble with women in the military, but that changed when they saw that we were just doing the same job, same standards and everything like that. Then in 1992 when women started to be allowed in combat, it's a whole new dynamic now. It's more leveled out.”

“I tended to fit right in because I have a sailor personality,” Wertel added. “Very joking and that type of mindset. There was only one or two instances where you hear just side comments, but for the most part I fit right in with the whole thing. Once you're in it, it's just a big family. Especially the Navy.”

Bouillon, Wertel, and Parsons agreed that young women considering a career in aviation shouldn't hesitate.

“I don't know the percentage of females in aviation,” Bouillon said. “I know it's very small, but I know in America the percentage of people that aren't satisfied with their jobs is pretty high. The way I look at it is, I love coming to work.”

“I'll agree with you on that,” Parsons said. “There has not been a day... I've never been like 'Oh, god, I have to go to work.' Never in my career.”

“Focus on what you want to do," Parsons added. "Don't let things like only a small percent are women controllers or astronauts or something like that, don't let that be a stumbling block."

“If you want to do it, do a little research and then go for it.” Wertel said. “There are times you're going to stumble. You might not get something the first time, but you keep trying.”

Original article can be found here ➤


  1. Ok, I'm looking at these women thinking "has sexism really been a problem for them?" I digress.

  2. You don't really mean that, do you? I've seen a tremendous amount of discrimination against women in my 34 years as a professional pilot.

  3. I was a 21 year old female CFI in the mid ‘70s with SEL, MEL, and seaplane ratings. My chief pilot where I taught asked one of the students who came in wanting to take lessons if he “minded flying with a woman”. In later interviews with airlines, I was asked what I would do if I was married and my husband got transferred. I replied “I don’t want to get married.” They asked it again.

    Looking a comment #1, I sense that the author is looking at womens’ appearance and making disparaging comments. Does anyone really question why I left aviation as a career, got an MBA, formed my own company and have 115 employees. I answer to NO sexist jerks now.