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IAWA Feature Article - Sharon Holahan, IAWA's First President

This past May, our first IAWA President, Sharon Holahan (who has recently been appointed as global head of complex claims at Global Aerospace) was awarded with the 2022 Cecile S. Hatfield, an award that is presented each year at the Embry-Riddle Aviation Law and Insurance Symposium to a deserving individual who has demonstrated career achievements that represent the highest standards and goals of the industry of aviation law or insurance practice.

Sharon is not only an outstanding professional to look up to in the industry, by being awarded with an Embry-Riddle but she has also demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the advancement of women in the aviation industry. She also served as the first President and founding member of IAWA in 1989, and her many contributions over the years have been inspiring to new generations to pursue their goals in aviation.

Currently an Honorary Board Member at IAWA, Sharon shared her thoughts on the current state of women in aviation:

To understand why there are so few women as leaders in aviation, our last survey with Oliver Wyman helps those who are seeking information about gender balance and its critical barriers. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

‘’Aviation encompasses so many aspects of the world economy that it is difficult to make generalizations. Although as with most of the world’s leadership of the past, Aviation was dominated by men and along with the rest of the world, women are making great strides in achieving leadership positions. Women of the last thirty years have branched into business, law, engineering, insurance and science. These skills have made it possible for us to break through some traditional glass ceiling."

What do you think women leaders today will look back on and wish they had known or done differently five years from now?

‘’Many women leaders today have worked their way up in a traditional manner. I see young women now eager to diversify their careers which is well suited to an industry such as ours that is cutting edge in innovation."

There’s still a long way to accelerate gender equality since IAWA’s foundation. In your view, what are the major achievements of IAWA and what are the key benefits of being a member?

‘’IAWA has given so much to many of us.  We meet the most inspiring female leaders, we have mentorship programs, the networking opportunities are many and vast.  IAWA’s message of “connect, inspire and lead” is real and attainable within the organization."

More about Sharon Holahan - Before working at Global Aerospace, Sharon was an attorney in private practice and an associate editor at Aviation International News. During her professional life, her achievements include being awarded as IAWA’s 2016 Aviation Industry Woman of Excellence Award, former Chair of the American Bar Association’s Aviation and Space Law Committee of the Torts and Insurance Section and was selected for membership in the International Who’s Who of Professionals in Aviation, and member of the New York and New Jersey Bars, and is a private pilot. Sharon received her undergraduate degree from Ohio University and law degree from Western New England School of Law.