WSN: A Passion Project

By Published On: March 6, 2021Categories: Skydiving0 Comments on WSN: A Passion Project

Welcome to the Women’s Skydiving Network. We’re thrilled you’re here, either as a current jumper, a former jumper looking for the spark to bring you back, or a future jumper looking for the best way to get involved.

The United States Parachute Association reports that women make up a mere 13% of the active skydiving population in the US. This fact makes one thing crystal clear; skydiving is a male-dominated sport. While being underrepresented creates some challenges for female skydivers, it also provides a unique opportunity: the drive to be equally represented. The drive to make that happen ignited a passion in skydivers Christy Frikken and JaNette Lefkowitz who co-founded the WSN in 2016. Both ladies started skydiving in 2001, have won National Skydiving competitions, and are full-time coaches within the sport. Christy said that though she was lucky in her own skydiving career she saw “doors closed to other women for no reason other than being female and I always felt helpless.” She felt that the best way to fix this problem is to have more women in influential roles within the industry. The WSN was created says JaNette to address the goal of “increasing the number of women in the sport through promoting women leaders and providing resources and a network of supportive women.”

Christy Frikken and JaNette Lefkowitz

Now, identifying the goal is the easy part, figuring out how to achieve the goal is what takes the most work. Since the WSN launched we’ve tackled our goal in a few different ways. One way that we aim to promote leadership is through our Mobile Mentors Program. Our mentors participate in our training curriculum developed by some of the most accomplished female skydivers in the world. After completing the course which is focused on developing coaching and leadership skills, Mobile Mentors are available to host skydiving and tunnel events. At these events, they focus on creating and growing the network of female skydivers that we rely on to achieve success in persuading women to become and stay active participants in their jumping communities.

We’ve also set up a private social media group so that the women within the sport can ask questions, get guidance, connect with each other and forge lasting friendships. Our group has over 3,600 women and is growing every day.

Project 19 Ladies training above Skydive Arizona. Photo By: D Squared

Another way that we’re working towards our goals is not just looking forward but looking back to our history. In 1893 New Zealand was the first country in which women received the right to vote. Australia was next in 1902. Then Finland in 1906. Country by country, a wave of women receiving the right to vote swept across the globe. Countless women risked everything to encourage and influence the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Each country has a story and each story has its heroes. Through the sport of skydiving, our community planned to celebrate and honor these courageous women by bravely showing the world what we do.

Originally the plan was to mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the US constitution (the amendment that secured the right to vote for women), by building a 100-way Women’s Vertical World Skydiving Record. This is Project 19. This group would go in the Guinness World Record books for most women to complete a head-down formation skydive. The pandemic hit, and Project 19 has been rescheduled for Fall 2022. Project 19’s mission is to encourage women worldwide to dream big and live a brave life so we’ve decided to go even bigger than our 100-way and now we’re planning a 102 way to celebrate the 102nd Anniversary. Sara Curtis, Project 19 Organizer, is passionate about this project and what it stands for: “I have always felt strongly about women’s equality and about what history can teach us. Also, I have always felt strongly about women or any people that were once devalued as a group taking their place in the future as leaders alongside traditional leaders. I love how the goals of Project 19 parallel those concepts.”

Sara Curtis, Project 19 Organizer and Highlight Team Member

As we already mentioned, increasing retention and getting women to stay actively involved in the sport for longer is a key factor in us reaching our goal, but we also focus on promoting the sport to those who haven’t begun their skydiving careers yet. Growing the numbers of women entering the sport is vital to our success and one way that we do this is through our all-female demonstration team, the Highlight Pro Skydiving Team.

Melanie Curtis, Executive Director of the WSN training for Project 19. Photo by: D Squared

The Highlight team provides us with the opportunity to inspire women and girls to live bold brave lives of their own design. Melanie Curtis, Executive Director of the WSN, Highlight Team Co-Captain, Author, and Life Coach says “the core mission of being bold and brave, in whatever ways we are uniquely called to, is one of my most core values in life. Being brave enough to do the things we are called to do in skydiving, in art, in self-expression, in business, in deep healing, in relationships, in life, and in love.”

Amy Chmelecki, Highlight Co-Captain landing from a Highlight Demo Jump.

Amy Chmelecki, Highlight Team Co-Captain, Project 19 Organizer and sole female Red Bull Air Force Team member says that the Highlight Team “is our opportunity to take the skills we’ve developed in competition and share them with a wider audience. We want women around the world to see that the sky’s the limit in what women can accomplish!” The Highlight Team took part in demonstration jumps around the country in 2020 to highlight (excuse the pun), the 100-year Anniversary of the US granting women the right to vote. They have no plans to stop there either with more demos, and projects coming up in 2021, stay tuned!

What success looks like for the WSN is an inclusive, connected, still growing community of women supporting women in the sport and you better believe we won’t rest until we hit our goals.

Now you know more about the WSN, how can you get involved?

We encourage you to reach out and participate with us! All women are welcome; whether you haven’t jumped out of a perfectly good airplane yet or you have done so 20,000 times, we want you to be part of this endeavor. Follow the above links, send us a message and we’d love to share the sky with you one day!

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