Her true self
How an inclusive work environment allowed a leader to thrive
In the beginning, Nancy McConeghy felt unstoppable. A rising star, she charged out of school and up the ladder at big-name companies. Yet she kept her LGBTQ status hidden at work.
“I was actually encouraged to keep things quiet,” said McConeghy. “My manager at my first job out of college told me my identity wouldn’t be well-received by others.”
She kept silent when those around her talked about their personal lives and didn’t feel safe coming out to them. It kept her from developing close relationships with coworkers, or reaching her full potential. It began to eat away at her.
“I felt like I was going to be discriminated against because I was a lesbian — in addition to the challenges I faced as a woman in the corporate world,” McConeghy said. “It was a scary time for me and for the future of my career.”
Nancy decided she wanted to work for a company that would welcome every aspect of her character; her true, full self. As she looked into working for Raytheon, she was struck by two things: There were four women on the senior leadership team, and the company put its anti-discrimination policy and same-sex benefits out in the open.
That was in 2005, when American companies were just starting to show support for LGBTQ employees. In 2002, fewer than one in three Fortune 500 companies provided same-sex benefits, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, and only 62 percent included sexual orientation in their equal employment opportunity policies.
Raytheon was the first aerospace and defense company to offer domestic partner benefits, and in 2005, was the first in its sector to achieve a perfect rating on the Corporate Equality Index.
“To see an aerospace and defense company be so inclusive in 2005; That was huge.” said McConeghy, who today is vice president of Information Technology and chief information officer at Raytheon's Space and Airborne Systems business. “The fact that Raytheon was so open, and it was important for them to be that open, spoke volumes to me.”
As McConeghy began her now-13-year career at Raytheon, she realized it was the first time she was able to bring her whole self to work, to be authentic and transparent to those around her.
“When I came to Raytheon, I quickly realized they really do walk the walk,” she said. “I felt safe, and honestly, that’s a big thing for the LGBTQ community.”
McConeghy quickly advanced, becoming an expert in her field and taking on the opportunities that propelled her career. She rose from the ranks of technical management to business leadership, and now is one of seven female vice presidents at Raytheon SAS.
Today, she leads training sessions and mentorship programs.
“A part of it comes a lot from my folks, two liberal arts professors with doctorates from Northern Illinois University. I’m a teacher at heart,” said McConeghy. “I get a lot of excitement and satisfaction out of teaching.”
As a sponsor of Raytheon’s GLBTA employee resource group, McConeghy also helps the company continue its diversity and inclusion leadership.
Leaders such as McConeghy have made him comfortable showing who he is as a person, said Adam Kuhl, the group’s west region vice president and a mechanical engineer.
“Being able to be visible to people has been eye-opening to me,” he said. “Having a supportive environment at work helped me realize I had nothing to fear about being open with others.”
When employees can bring their whole selves to work, McConeghy says, the business gets the full benefit of their creativity and innovation.
“l have been treated fairly, working at Raytheon,” said McConeghy. “It welcomed me in a way no other company has. And we are all better for it.”