PHL’s Kathleen Padilla Receives ACI-NA Leon C. Watkins “Guardian Award” for Excellence in Business Diversity

Kathleen Padilla, Deputy Director of Aviation for Diversity and Inclusion for the City of Philadelphia’s Division of Aviation, was selected by Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) as the recipient of the 2021 Leon C. Watkins “Guardian Award” for Excellence in Business Diversity. The Guardian Award recognizes “a business diversity leader who has promoted the growth and evolution of minority- and women-owned businesses and suppliers, while also fostering the advancement of civil rights and equal opportunities for all within the airport business environment.” 

“Mr. Watkins was a giant in diversity and mediation. He was the director of the FAA’s Office of Civil Rights and then moved on to be the Associate Administrator for the FAA with Civil Rights underneath him,” said Padilla. “I know that I can’t match Mr. Watkins’ achievements, but it is an honor to be associated with him in any degree.”  

Padilla oversees the Federal Business Diversity Programs citywide, PHL’s Accessibility and Access Programs, the Federal Business Certification Program, PHL's Federal Small Business Program and Language Access Program within the Division of Aviation. Padilla’s leadership helped the airport exceed its Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) program goal of 19.3 percent in fiscal year 2020, achieving 33.74 percent program participation.  

“I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for the ACI-NA Guardian Award than Kathy,” said PHL CEO Chellie Cameron. “She works tirelessly to ensure that our region’s minority- and women-owned enterprises have access to opportunities to do business at the airport and continually evaluates our program to reach even more DBEs and ACDBEs.”  

The airport’s annual Business Opportunity Forum, which is organized by Padilla and her team, attracts hundreds of representatives from large, small, minority-owned, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) and organizations to learn about the state of the airport, future contracting opportunities, how to apply for DBE/Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (ACDBE)/Small Business Enterprises (SBE) status and how to respond to requests for proposals. In 2019, Padilla led a partnership with Transwork – Philadelphia’s LGBT business association – for the DOA’s first-ever job fair for transgender and nonbinary people. 

“This last year has been especially challenging for our concessionaires, our consultants, our professional service providers and suppliers,” said Padilla. “We all need to redouble our efforts to increase opportunities for our disadvantaged businesses, to identify new business partnerships to implement the ideals of our diverse business programs and expand these programs to meet our times and speak to the future.” 


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