In continuation of Women’s History Month, the City of Philadelphia Department of Aviation celebrates women in aviation who make a difference every day, like Deputy Chief Financial Officer Cassandra Williams and Deputy Director of Aviation for Business Diversity and Accessibility Denise Bailey.
Deputy Chief Financial Officer Cassandra Williams
Williams oversees the airport’s Accounting, Budget, and Treasury units by ensuring proper financial reporting requirements are followed, expenses are minimized where possible, and the cash requirements for operations and capital projects are evaluated. Williams joined PHL in June 2019 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Rutgers University, an MBA from St. John’s University, a J.D. from Temple University, and is also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
For Williams, Women’s History Month is about learning how women knocked down barriers and overcame stereotypes out of necessity or in pursuit of dreams and made something possible out of impossible circumstances.
“My mother inspired me,” said Williams. “Having grown up in an urban area and not having had the same opportunities, she never let me forget the importance of education. She encouraged me to get an education and aspire to more than she had been able to achieve. When the company where she worked for over 20 years closed their doors due to the owner’s passing, I saw her pivot, get training in a new industry, and start another career when she was almost 50. I never saw her let a negative situation deter her from moving forward.”
Williams is aware that accounting is considered the language of business. “Every organization needs to manage its finances to be successful,” she said. “Understanding those finances gives women a seat at the table to talk about the strategies and planning for an organization’s future. Having women’s perspectives at the table allows for more diverse views to be heard in reaching a business decision.”
Williams recalls a challenging time when she made the decision to go from being a full-time law student and a stay-at-home mom to going back to working full-time. At the time, she did not know many people that paused their careers, and after having already worked for several years, she worried that it would be like starting all over again. However, she landed on a great opportunity and spent time learning a new industry taking on job responsibilities that allowed her to develop professionally. “I looked at personal and professional challenges as learning experiences that prepared me for my next steps,” said Williams.
Williams is inspired by the quote, ‘The secret of success in life is to be ready for opportunity when it comes.’ She encourages all women to pursue the educational, certification, and career goals they wish to follow. Williams believes that knowledge is the key to being ready when an opportunity presents itself.
Throughout her career, Williams has built experience in the corporate world as well as municipal government. She enjoys how the aviation industry functions within the confines of government but also operates as a business.
“My overall impact is using the work ethic and dedication that I bring to positions to change erroneous perceptions and help open doors for other Black women for opportunities that we are not sometimes considered for,” said Williams. “It’s important to believe that anything is possible by coming up with a plan, executing it, and adjusting as necessary when life changes.”
Deputy Director of Aviation for Business Diversity and Accessibility Denise Bailey
Bailey leads the Department of Aviation's efforts related to its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Airport Concessions DBE (ACDBE) program, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Title VI. Bailey holds a Bachelor of Science in Commerce and Engineering from Drexel University. Although she began working for the airports full-time in December 2022, she began her career as an engineering intern for the airport as an undergraduate student.
“For me, Women’s History Month means that many women took personal and professional risks that we all benefit from today,” said Bailey. “And that many of these risk-taking women are not only in the distant history but are making a difference today as well.”
From a young age, Bailey recalls being enamored with Harriet Tubman and made every diorama, essay, book report about Tubman. Bailey was inspired by Tubman for her strong, kind-hearted, socially driven qualities and how she used her leadership skills to help so many in real ways. “My other inspiration is my mother, who was raised in and still lives in rural America,” said Bailey. “She made her life's work raising my brother and me. She was strong and inciteful enough to leave me to the curb in West Philadelphia when I first started Drexel to make something of myself personally and professionally.”
Within engineering, Bailey believes women’s voices are important when it comes to issues of form and functionality. She also believes the world needs more of the organizational and people-based business savvy skills that women contribute to. “Also, as the mother of two adult boys, it is important for them to continue to see women representing all fields of expertise at all levels,” said Bailey.
Bailey recalls a challenge she overcame when she was at the airport as a 19-year-old intern. “The airport was ahead of the curve on diverse hiring even in the 80s,” said Bailey. “During my intern work doing construction inspection on the roof of Terminal B, I was challenged by a contractor on my abilities because I was a female. Joe Camaro, my direct supervisor, didn't come to my rescue as much as he accompanied back up on the roof to stick to the engineering script, engage with strength, and learn to be in charge of what I say and do, no matter how anyone else acts. It felt great that day, and I am indebted to Joe for teaching me that lesson.”
Bailey hopes women can see that if a woman like her from a low-income farming community can find joy and success they too can succeed. “I've had the honor, thrill, and challenges of working in engineering, managing a small minority firm, and now at my position at the airport,” said Bailey. “I hope that they see that all the struggles are worth it and that it is the successes that you remember the most - even the little ones.”