Fifty-three percent of the City of Philadelphia Department of Aviation’s senior team is female. This Women’s History Month, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and Northeast Philadelphia Airport (PNE) celebrate the women who contribute to the airports' success every day. Here, we recognize three powerful women at the airports, Keesha Lane, Camille Tomlin and Chevelle Harrison, who shared their thoughts on the significance of Women’s History Month.
Assistant Director of Community Relations and Outreach Keesha Lane
As the Assistant Director of Community Relations and Outreach at PHL, Lane fosters relationships with community partners by supplying channels of communication and provides updates impacting surrounding neighborhoods. She also facilitates opportunities for airport staff to volunteer in the surrounding communities. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Widener University and has been with the Department of Aviation for 17 years.
For Lane, Women’s History Month tells the story of how far society has come and how much further it still needs to go. She believes women are standing on the shoulders of forerunners who were resilient, innovative, bold, and tenacious. She also believes it’s now the responsibility of today’s women to carry the torch and pave the way for the next generation.
“Although my mother, Pearlie Lane, passed away, the love she showed me and life lessons she instilled in me drive every decision I make personally and professionally,” said Lane. “She continues to be my inspiration. My mother was a connector and an advisor, she was a woman of wisdom. She was very versatile, resourceful, and exuded confidence.
Representation in any profession is vital for various reasons including equity, empathy, diversity, and inclusion. Lane views female representation in her field as affirming, validating, and achievable.
Shortly after the pandemic, Lane was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident. This unfortunate event was a challenge for Lane but through it, she was able to focus on self-care while rising above this obstacle. “When obstacles come make it a comma and not a period on your life’s journey,” said Lane. “The story continues and a new and improved version of yourself will emerge. After several months of rehab at home, I was able to return to work. And because of the support from loved ones and colleagues, I was able to jump back on the saddle and continue the journey doing what I love.”
Throughout her career at the airports, Lane has enjoyed the aviation industry for its ability to connect individuals. “I love that we provide an invaluable service to individuals all over the world no matter who or where you are,” said Lane. “I love watching interactions between passengers and their loved ones when they are either arriving or departing the airport. Emotions are infectious. I find myself smiling and joining in on the fun when passengers are greeted by loved ones with gigantic hugs and laughter.”
Director of Workforce Development Chevelle Harrison
As the Director of Workforce Development, Harrison is responsible for the Department’s Bridge Program and Milestones to Success Workforce Development Program. She recently joined the airports and has been an employee with the City of Philadelphia for 29 years.
While working with the City of Philadelphia, Harrison pursued and received her Bachelor of Science in Business from Pierce College and MBA from the University of Phoenix.
“Women’s History Month shows the world what accomplishments women have proven in every area,” said Harrison. “We do more than what people think we do. No matter what part of the world women are in, they are the glue that holds families together.”
While Harrison was at the Philadelphia Water Department, she reestablished its apprenticeship program, onboarding 22 young Black and Brown men who were formerly incarcerated. “That was my most defining moment and purpose,” said Harrison.
Throughout her career, Harrison was frequently guided by women of color who advised her to never be stuck at one job and always encouraged her figure out her next career goals.
“My 102-year-old grandmother was my inspiration,” said Harrison. “She didn’t have a fancy title but the impact she’s had on everyone was powerful. Her faith carried everyone in the family. She’s the epidemy of a woman. Remembering her brings a smile to my face.”
Harrison encourages women to understand what career they’re passionate about by mapping it out in a realistic way. At PHL, she hopes she provides the knowledge that assists employees change their situation for the better.
“Don’t be afraid to take a chance on yourself,” said Harrison. “You may have to believe in yourself when no one else does. Encourage yourself with daily affirmations of self-love. The more you do it, the more you’ll feel encouraged to press forward.”
Deputy Chief Technology Officer Camille Tomlin
In her role as the Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Tomlin overseas all IT network infrastructure and operations, including network security, telecoms, wireless, data centers, disaster recovery, on-prem and cloud environment, CCTV, access control, as well as other related functions. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems from Drexel University and has been with the Department of Aviation for nine months.
Tomlin recalls her experience at the Philadelphia High School for Girls’ empowering as the school celebrated women’s history. This is the spirit she carries as an adult. “While at Girls’ High, I was first introduced to Sojourner Truth’s 1851 speech, ‘Ain’t I a Woman,’ said Tomlin. "Every March, I often reflect on that impactful speech.”
Tomlin has always been inspired by all women who were the first to do anything, including being the first woman to break into their industry, get that top job, do that specific thing, or stand up to the status quo. “I often think about all the roadblocks they faced,” said Tomlin. “The ‘othering’ and possible loneliness one likely experienced being the first or only woman to accomplish something, knowing their experience was so the generations who follow won’t have that experience.”
Although Tomlin believes women have made gains in the technology industry since the 1990s, she still believes women of color are significantly underrepresented. “We need more women involved and contributing to the development of the many tech solutions we see today,” said Tomlin. “With more perspectives working together, we will develop more holistic solutions which benefit all groups and audiences.”
Tomlin would advise women entering the IT field to remain curious, enthusiastic, and current.
She enjoys that her job helps to support PHL passengers begin their adventures. Tomlin hopes she has a positive impact wherever she goes, whether that’s working with Department of Aviation teams to ensure the airports' technical infrastructure is reliable and secure or creating opportunities for the teams to expand their knowledge and experience.
“I hope little girls can see myself and the other women in the various roles available at the airport, and know they too, can achieve anything,” said Tomlin.