A champion for women
Society of Women Engineers honors Raytheon CEO for advancing female engineers
The nation’s leading organization supporting female engineers has honored Raytheon Chairman and CEO Tom Kennedy for his efforts to mentor women, improve gender equity and implement policies that encourage workplace diversity and inclusion.
The Society of Women Engineers, also known as SWE, presented Kennedy with the 2018 Rodney D. Chipp Memorial Award at its annual conference in Minneapolis on Oct. 19. The award is given to men or companies who contribute significantly to the acceptance and advancement of women engineers, according to SWE.
“I believe you need diversity and inclusion, especially diversity of thought and diversity of cultures, to foster a culture of innovation,” Kennedy told the more than 1,000 women engineers and business leaders in attendance. “Diversity is a business imperative.”
The organization also recognized two Raytheon engineers: Mary Roybal, a chief technologist with Raytheon's Missile Systems business, who received a Fellow Grade for advancing women engineers throughout her career; and Letia Blanco, a systems engineer with the company’s Space and Airborne Systems business, who received the SWE Distinguished New Engineer Award.
Roybal is a senior engineering fellow in the structural analysis and test department. Her 30-year career in the aerospace and defense industry has focused on investigating nonmetallic structural analysis and design failures, and future design on mechanical systems.
Blanco is currently the lead systems engineer for an electro-optical/infrared sensor program. Both are long-time members of SWE and have years of experience volunteering with programs that promote better understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
In nominating Kennedy for the award, a number of female engineers and company leaders authored testimonials speaking to his career-long record of creating diverse program teams, encouraging women to seek leadership roles and helping to grow the ranks of female engineers.
“One of Tom’s most notable attributes is his passion for implementing a truly diverse and inclusive culture at Raytheon,” wrote SWE member Dr. Ellen Ferraro, director of research and technology in Advanced Technology at Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business. “This passion comes through when he speaks about the business imperative for the advancement of women, the need to identify barriers and remove them, and the desire for Raytheon to be a top company for diversity and inclusion.”
Heidi Shyu, former assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, worked with Kennedy in the '80s and '90s and wrote that his focus on promoting women dates back.
“Throughout his career he advocated, mentored and urged young females to take on leadership roles,” she wrote. “Tom always made sure that his leadership team is diverse and inclusive of women. His strong advocacy helped young women to pursue leadership roles.”
Kennedy noted in his remarks that the number of women graduating with engineering degrees hasn’t noticeably improved since he graduated college in the 1970s. As CEO, Kennedy has supported initiatives that encourage young students to consider careers in science, engineering, math and technology. One specific area Kennedy highlighted is Raytheon’s new partnership with the Girl Scouts on the organization’s first-ever national computer science program.
“We want to inspire more middle and high school girls to pursue the exciting careers of the future economy, especially in engineering, cybersecurity, robotics and artificial intelligence,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy became Raytheon CEO in March 2014 and chairman in October 2014. The first new board member appointed under his tenure was Letitia Long, a female engineer and one of the first female leaders in the nation's intelligence community. With the appointment of Ellen Pawlikowski in September 2018, the Raytheon board of directors now includes an industry-leading five women.
In the nomination, Ferraro and others pointed to the early 2016 launch of a strategic plan that, at Kennedy’s request, used researched, process- and culture-focused efforts to improve the recruitment, retention and development of women.
Highlights of the plan included revamped talent acquisition and development processes; required training on topics like mitigating bias and inclusive leadership; a new performance rating system; diversity-related annual goals for every level of leadership; inclusive benefits like the industry’s first paid parental leave program; and an internal communications campaign called Diversity 2020 to help foster a diverse and inclusive environment.
Half of Raytheon’s engineering vice presidents are now women. In 2017, women were promoted into engineering fellow and principal engineering fellow roles at an increased rate.
“I am confident that our efforts to recruit, develop, retain and motivate women across Raytheon will continue to advance with Tom as our CEO,” wrote Randa Newsome, vice president of Human Resources and Global Security, in the nomination.
“My commitment to these women engineers, and to all the women at Raytheon, is to ensure the company provides an environment where they want to join, stay and grow their careers,” Kennedy said.