Laura Sinclair was working as a military detachment commander, running a howitzer with six troops operating under her. She completed the job and then a man pulled her aside to ask if she was a photographer.
“I said no, and he just couldn’t believe it,” says Sinclair. “[From the age of 16] I was shooting guns for a living, sleeping in a field five nights a week and normally was the only girl.”
She moved to Edmonton in 2013 and started air traffic control training in 2015, where she met women whose experiences in aviation mirrored those of her military years.
In between, Sinclair was looking at going with a group to El Salvador to build a school — her friend, Kendra Kincade, suggested they compile a calendar featuring photos of women in aviation doing their jobs as a fundraising project. The women were excited to connect, often saying they only had male colleagues.
“We were like: OK, there’s definitely something here that is missing.”
They co-created Elevate Aviation which now has 19 employees and hundreds of volunteers, all of whom help support under-represented populations in aviation. Under-represented groups, particularly those who are BIPOC, are recruited for skills training and certifications in the aviation readiness programs. They also offer professional development opportunities and essential skills courses for women who are re-entering the workforce.
And they offer children’s programs, educating them from an early age of aviation opportunities — a gap they realized existed through research.
“Every day we hear stories of women saying that Elevate changed their lives. They were able to get the career of their dreams or even just leave an unsafe relationship and feel they can do something on their own,” says Sinclair.