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NBAA's Damato Helps Women in Industry Manage Life's Juggling Act

January 26, 2011

Life as an aviation professional, wife and mother often includes unique challenges – just ask Jo Damato, a long-time business aviation professional and NBAA Director of Operations and Educational Development, who draws from her own experiences to provide helpful guidance to other women in business aviation.

NBAA's Jo DamatoHerself a mother of two boys and wife of an airline captain, Damato writes a regular column for Aviation for Women magazine called "The Juggling Act," which provides advice for women trying to balance their aviation careers and domestic life.

"We were taught by our own mothers that we can have it all," she said, "but I can tell you from personal experience it's not easy!" In addition to the Women in Aviation (www.wai.org) column, she is unofficially called upon to provide advice for industry peers looking for answers to logistical problems of marriage, children and careers.

"When it comes to managing competing priorities, there is no single approach that always works," Damato said. "Many women email suggestions, such as 'my husband and I are both captains, and this is how we figured it out.' And a lot of young women who approach me at NBAA's Convention or Women In Aviation events will be dating a young man in aviation and ask if having it all is really possible. I tell them it's possible but be prepared to work hard at it!"

In seminars at NBAA meetings and conventions, and at Women In Aviation gatherings, Damato emphasizes three keys for couples mixing careers, a relationship and children.

"Communication is a big one," she said. "Especially when spouses are away for days at a time, staying in touch is critical. Thank goodness for advances in communication, like texting. If my husband is on the ground for 20 minutes, he can text or call me to keep up with life at home."

"Support is the second point," Damato said, adding that neither parent can carry the entire burden alone and that a good support network is essential. "You have to create your own support network. You may become friendly with other aviation moms and dads, maybe join a neighborhood club. You just cannot succeed trying to do it all yourself."

"Third, you cannot lose your sense of self," she said. "You can be something to everyone, but you can't forget the person you are, and the reason you chose to have a career in aviation. The way to be the best spouse, worker or mother is to maintain your identity, whether it's through career education, or even going out and flying casually if you're a pilot."

As resources for professional aviation women looking for ways to maintain a sense of self, Damato pointed to NBAA's large and rapidly-growing library of educational resources under the "Professional Development" heading on the NBAA web site, at www.nbaa.org. NBAA's Certified Aviation Manager and Professional Development Program are career pathways, while Project Bootstrap and NBAA's On-Demand Education Programs are shorter self-improvement paths, often with advanced benefits for employees of NBAA member companies.

"Yes, women who choose aviation careers can have it all," she said. "But like anything in life that you want, you have to be willing to work hard at it and keep your priorities in the right order."

NBAA's Jo Damato can be reached at jdamato@nbaa.org.