March 21, 2024

Celebrating the Women of Jet Linx

March 21, 2024

Celebrating the Women of Jet Linx

Women’s History Month | March 2024

While women make up 46% of the total U.S. workforce, they remain greatly underrepresented in many aviation fields. Less than 20% of most aviation occupations are women, including only 7% of private pilots, 2.6% of aviation maintenance technicians, 4.6% of airline transport pilots, and 3% in senior leadership positions. Though better represented at 11-20%, women are still outnumbered in aerospace engineering, aviation faculty, airport management, air traffic control, and dispatch roles.

The gender gap extends to the top aviation organizations worldwide, where women account for just 14% of C-suite roles and 3% of CEOs. Among Fortune 500 companies, a mere 8% have female CEOs, with less than 1% led by women of color – highlighting the lack of diversity in the 94% white pilot population.

Jet Linx aims to create an inclusive workplace where all team members can participate, contribute, and be valued for their skills and perspectives. Over 33% of Jet Linx’s nationwide leadership is female, many building decades-long careers at the company. Jet Linx partners with organizations driving women into STEM careers, including youth outreach programs utilizing the “see it to be it” approach with underrepresented groups from an early age.

Jet Linx proudly maintains ties to Women in Aviation International, International Girls in Aviation Day, and local educational non-profits. Base teams nationwide host, sponsor, and participate in events by these groups, and many female Jet Linx pilots actively engage with local Ninety-Nines chapters and similar organizations. From Omaha’s Burke Air and Space Academy to the Boston Women in Aviation chapter, Jet Linx remains committed to building a stronger, more diverse aviation workforce through outreach and investing in future aviators.

Data Source: “Women in Aviation: A Workforce Report for 2021”, Professor Rebecca Lutte, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Alison English, Director of Talent Acquisition, National Operations Center

English initially joined Jet Linx in 2016 as a recruiter and was promoted to Director of Talent Acquisition ten months later. From 2020 to 2022, English took time away from work to raise her son and rejoined Jet Linx in April 2022 as a part-time resume reviewer, but was again promoted to Director of Talent Acquisition in August 2022. After taking two years away to support her family, she acknowledges the sacrifices she had to make for her family and the many challenges that come along with the fast-paced, 24/7 nature of the aviation industry.

“Being an ambitious leader shouldn’t come at the sacrifice of your family. More part-time or flexible scheduling options could help a lot of women find success in this industry. Another important factor for women is finding strong supporters and I am grateful to be part of the women-led Human Resources team. I’m constantly in awe of the powerful women at Jet Linx and I find myself growing each day as I spend more time with the team,” English explained.

Ashley Allisma, Base Vice President, Jet Linx Omaha & Minneapolis

Allisma began her aviation career as a Flight Concierge at Jet Linx Omaha in 2012 after graduating from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. She soon earned a promotion to Lead Flight Concierge, followed by another promotion to General Manager. After a brief period away from Jet Linx to care for her two daughters, Ashley was welcomed back as General Manager, and soon after earned another promotion to her current role as Base Vice President.

Allisma is proud to share that Jet Linx Minneapolis hosts a local Girls in Aviation Day every summer with over 2,000 young female attendees. The local Base also makes their hangar and facility available to schools and youth organizations for tours with female aviation professionals. The opportunity to showcase women in the cockpit and in leadership roles like herself is important to combating the historic ‘boys club’ image that persists in the industry today. Allisma remains passionate that female representation in leadership at the executive level can drive meaningful change, as the policies created by a male-dominated team are often not flexible enough to cater to professional women’s needs when it comes to maternity leave, caregiving and more.

“Women in industries like aviation find themselves in a delicate balance of being ‘liked’ versus being ‘heard,’ and can sometimes compromise their valuable voices for fear of being too aggressive. This can make it hard for ambitious women to advance in this industry. I do remain thankful for the mentorship of a veteran pilot far back in my career, as the many, many conversations with him taught me much of what I know about this industry,” Allisma said.

Diana Likes, Director of Total Rewards, National Operations Center

Likes has been with Jet Linx since 2020, noting she would often look at openings and consider applying because aviation has captured her interest since she was young. Growing up near the Millard airport in Omaha with airplanes flying overhead, she had dreams of becoming a pilot or astronaut. However, when Likes was growing up, aviation and other STEM-related careers weren’t ever discussed as an option for her. Whether intentional or not, she says it wasn’t addressed as a problem until more recently.

“As an HR professional in this industry, I have not faced the same challenges as others in specific operational spaces. But I do know from experiences in my youth that we have begun to address diversity within aviation as a real problem, and I believe outreach and mentorship opportunities are critical,” said Likes. “Women in aviation are blazing trails and they may not even be aware of it. We need to support them and help them grow in their careers. Better yet, we need to show that careers in this industry, including jobs in maintenance, sales – you name it – are available to all individuals.”

Erin Donnelly, Senior Vice President of Revenue Management, National Operations Center

Donnelly joined Jet Linx in 2010, bringing extensive aviation experience that began at Sentient Jet in 2003. After teaching herself the phonetic alphabet, she became captivated by the challenges of aviation. Over the past 14 years, Donnelly has held various Manager, Director, and Vice President roles, overseeing departments such as Charter, Fleet Optimization, Flight Coordination, Crewing, and Flight Concierge.

For Donnelly, the allure of the business side of aviation has always been strong, driven by the industry’s nonstop, always-on-the-move nature. While working on the business side, Donnelly mentions that she has never encountered challenges specifically due to her gender. However, managing maternity leave for each of her daughters has sometimes made her uneasy about being away from the fast-paced industry for extended periods.

“I know many of my peers were initially attracted to the industry because of their personal interest in aircraft, but there is plenty of appeal on the logistics and business side that could attract more diversity to our field. Whether you’re on the ground or in the cockpit, this is an exciting line of work with numerous challenges and rewards. We need to continue highlighting these opportunities to more young people entering the workforce with backgrounds and education outside of aviation. There are so many roles to fill beyond those of pilots,” Donnelly emphasized.

Heather DeRegis, Regional Base President, Jet Linx New York, Washington D.C., Miami and Boca Raton

DeRegis brings a quarter-century of aviation experience to her role at Jet Linx, spanning back to 1996 when she graduated from Dowling College with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics & Management. In 1998, DeRegis transitioned to private aviation when she joined Million Air Charter, which later became Meridian Air Charter. By 2000, Heather earned a promotion as Flight Operations Manager, where for two decades she oversaw a team of 10 flight followers and dispatchers for worldwide flight operations across a fleet that grew to 29 aircraft.

When Jet Linx acquired Meridian Air Charter in 2020, DeRegis’s decades of experience were immediately put to use as an Aircraft Account Manager for aircraft in both the New York and Boston territories. In 2021, she earned a promotion to New York Base Vice President, managing one of the busiest Base locations in the country, before being promoted in February 2023 to Regional Base President – overseeing all Jet Linx east coast locations.

“While aviation careers, especially in the realm of pilots and aircraft mechanics remain largely male dominated, there’s no reason why more outreach and education can’t occur to draw in more diverse candidates,” she reflected. “Working on the business and operations side of the industry before Jet Linx, there were times where I found myself excluded from events like golf outings or only invited to parties after the fact. Though such instances are disheartening, the best remedy to improve diversity is to continue to be engaged and involved with organizations such as Women in Aviation International, as well as local aviation organizations, to maintain representation and encourage younger generations to do the same,” DeRegis said.

Jessica Bifano, Base Vice President, Jet Linx Dallas, Fort Worth & Houston

In late 2015, Bifano moved cross-country from Indianapolis to Houston to start her aviation career with Jet Linx as a Personal Flight Concierge for our Houston location. Since then, she has earned numerous promotions in roles such as Director of Jet Card Sales, Vice President of Sales and Client Relations, and General Manager. In early 2021, Bifano became the Jet Linx Houston Base Vice President where she oversees all Base operations for Jet Linx Houston. She also remains active in the Women Leading Travel and Hospitality Group.

“Every time I see a female pilot, I feel so impressed and proud, but it does not happen nearly enough,” she commented. “Women inherently worry about work-life balance more than their male counterparts, which affects our representation in the industry. My advice to any young woman with an interest in aviation is to reach out to someone for mentorship and to never be intimidated by a male-dominated industry. One of the strengths of this industry comes in the variety of roles available that can support you at different times in your life.”

Kelly McDonald, Pilot, Jet Linx Atlanta

McDonald began flying for Jet Linx in 2016 in the Beechjet, and is now typed to fly in the Challenger 605 and different models of the Cessna Citation Excel. Her passion for flying began when she was six years old and her father earned a pilot’s license. She would sit next to him as they flew on family trips, and he would teach her about the flight instruments and how to understand them. At age 16, McDonald began taking flying lessons herself and knew she wanted to become a pilot.

McDonald now flies as a Captain, but has noted often when flying with a male copilot, passengers may assume that the male is the Pilot-in-Command – just one example of the subtle transgressions that female pilots experience. However, McDonald believes that representation within the industry is improving despite the stigma of a male-dominated cockpit. One of her greatest mentors came in the form of a well-seasoned male pilot with a grass strip in his backyard who saw McDonald’s dedication and tenacity and taught her everything he knew.

“I try to promote and empower women in this industry any chance that I get, always listening and asking how I might help find a career path or provide other advice,” McDonald reflected. “But I also do this with my male counterparts… I think it’s important to help anyone who wants to be helped. Everyone makes sacrifices to reach their goals, and everyone has their own story to tell.”

Liz Cordova, Base Vice President, Jet Linx Miami & Boca Raton

Cordova joined Jet Linx in 2023 with a decade of aviation experience under her belt. While working in the hospitality industry more than a decade ago, Cordova met the Vice President of an aircraft maintenance company and her drive to learn new things transformed into a full-fledged aviation career. Formerly a Charter Coordinator Assistant and Maintenance Coordinator for private jet operators in the busy private airspace of Florida, Cordova now oversees the Jet Linx Miami team from their private terminal at Miami Opa-Locka Executive Airport.

Grateful to have had many helpful male mentors in her aviation career, Cordova explained that at times, the only barrier to success came from her own self-doubt. While believing that consistent commitment from leadership to recruit and retain female professionals will be necessary for the long-term health of the industry, Cordova encourages young women to remember that there is nothing stopping you but yourself.

Michele Sonier, Pilot, National Operations Center

Sonier has been flying the Cessna Citation XLS for Jet Linx since December 2022. She began her piloting career later in life, even though a career on the flight deck was always something she wanted to do – like many young aviators, she never had the time or money to take flight lessons. Once she took her first flight lesson, however, she knew that aviation was her calling. Sonier is actively involved with the Ninety-Nines, an international non-profit organization for female pilots, in the Pilot Leadership Program, where she helps recruit and mentor other female aviators and actively shares the accomplishments of other females in aviation on her personal social media channels.

At times in her career, Sonier has experienced negative perceptions about her abilities, feeling as if she must do more to be perceived as equal to a male counterpart, and where showing confidence in her abilities can sometimes be perceived in a negative light. She also notes the pressure for women to stay home and take care of children, and the costly and time-consuming nature of flying provides even less opportunity for females, which Sonier experienced personally.

“Scholarships and mentoring programs are effective and direct ways to help aspiring female aviators. I’ve found it’s also important to have internal support and a company culture like we have at Jet Linx where female pilots are comfortable escalating issues without fear of negative perceptions or other reciprocations. Whether you have a female or male advocating for you, it’s important to have a firm voice of support in an organization,” Sonier said.  

Shawnna Innis, Vice President of Business Solutions & Information Technology, National Operations Center

Innis joined Jet Linx in 2020 as a Business Process Analyst, focusing on process mapping and identifying solutions to improve efficiency. Over the past four years, she has played a key role in reshaping various company workflows, earning promotions to Manager, Director, Vice President of Business Solutions, and most recently incorporating Information Technology into her expanding portfolio. Innis strongly believes that business solutions are holistic and, while technology is essential, it should not be the sole answer to solving business problems. She has built a team with expertise in process change, data insights, software engineering, network and infrastructure, and cybersecurity, all sharing this philosophy.

Joining Jet Linx wasn’t about pursuing a career in aviation for Innis, rather, it was an opportunity to work for a leader she deeply respected and to be surrounded by individuals who would inspire her to enhance her skills and career. For Innis, having a passion for one’s work is a powerful motivator, contagious, and should be leveraged to recruit and retain female talent in industries like aviation and technology, which are predominantly male professions.

“While there are injustices in this world that contribute to an imbalance of power in any workplace, those realities do not have to define our future. I have made the personal choice not to focus on whether any challenge I endure is because I am a woman, but rather focus on how my character is going to show in the end. When I feel unsupported, I surround myself with those who share my vision and encourage me in it and continue to persevere until I achieve what I have set out to,” Innis said.

Yvette Sumodi, Vice President of Human Resources, National Operations Center

Yvette Green

Sumodi has more than 20 years of experience in human resources and joined Jet Linx in 2019 as Vice President where she oversees the Human Resources and Talent teams. Previously an HR professional in the telecommunication, non-profit and healthcare industries, Sumodi was drawn to Jet Linx because of the Company’s culture and core values, and saw the aviation industry as a challenge with plenty of opportunities for learning. Professional women in all industries, including aviation, want to receive pay and benefits commensurate for their experience, and at Jet Linx, Sumodi is tasked with thinking beyond core benefits like medical and dental insurance to offer programs such as wellness and volunteerism efforts that resonate more with today’s workforce. In addition, Sumodi sees opportunities for growth and professional development as equally important in attracting a diverse workforce.

“In our country, women are underrepresented in many industries, particularly those with a focus in technology or science. Of course, this is changing incrementally and at a slower pace than desirable,” Sumodi reflected. “In my three years at Jet Linx, I have seen more women join the Company both in crew and non-crew roles. Barriers I have observed that are key factors are the cost of education and training, lack of support system and lack of access to resources or education. However, by identifying these barriers we can focus our investments on creating programs to attract and retain the best talent in the industry,” Sumodi said.

Mia Loxley, Pilot, Jet Linx Scottsdale

Before joining Jet Linx as Personal Flight Concierge in 2022, Loxley pursued an aviation career through ROTC, but ended up transferring to the University of North Dakota to obtain her pilot certifications and ratings. Loxley graduated in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management and a specialization in Business Aviation. She gained experience as a flight operations intern with General Atomics working on the MQ-9 Reaper drone, an airport data analyst for Aero Data by Garmin, and a flight instructor for Sierra Charlie Aviation.

Loxley credits her time as a Personal Flight Concierge at Jet Linx Scottsdale for helping her develop important hospitality and client service skills that translate to the flight deck. In 2023, Loxley jumped into the cockpit as a pilot on the Citation XLS and currently has 1,000 total flight hours. While Loxley has had many different roles, her experience piloting has been a dream come true. Even outside of her duty days, Loxley often flies for fun or helps to instruct young aviators.

“The best advice I could give to any aspiring aviator is to follow your dreams and goals. Be a sponge and learn as much as you can along the way, whether it is through friends, organizations, aviation-related jobs, or just being at the airport. Take every opportunity you can to fly and do it safely. Study hard because it all pays off in the long run,” Loxley advised.

Darrah Callen, Base Vice President, Jet Linx Denver & Tulsa

Callen joined Jet Linx in 2014, bringing with her over 13 years of experience in private aviation. Prior to Jet Linx, Callen worked at a local Tulsa aircraft charter and management company where she managed over 20 pilots and focused on charter sales, operations, and client relations.

In her time with Jet Linx she has worn many hats and fulfilled numerous roles, such as Client Services, Jet Card Sales, General Manager and now Base Vice President of Tulsa and Denver. With over 20 years in the industry, her experience and relationships bring a wealth of opportunity and expertise to our Tulsa and Denver Bases.

“In a male-dominated industry like aviation it can be a struggle to be taken seriously and earn the same respect that men are granted, but I find that working hard and being dedicated can open up so many possibilities. Sometimes the only person stopping you is yourself,” said Callen.

Considering a career in aviation? Visit to explore opportunities at Jet Linx.

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