Like father, like daughter

Raytheon CEO’s support of the next generation of women leaders also extends to his home

Raytheon Chairman and CEO Thomas A. Kennedy with his daughter Kelly Kennedy

Raytheon Chairman and CEO Thomas A. Kennedy with his daughter Kelly Kennedy at the Leaders & Daughters 2017 event in Boston.

When Tom Kennedy became Raytheon’s chief executive officer in March 2014, one of the first things he did was reaffirm his strong support for diversity and inclusion.

That’s because he believes they are vital in strengthening a company culture that drives innovation, problem solving and breakthrough ideas. 

A key focus for Raytheon and Kennedy has been retaining and attracting women – since they have been traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields – by implementing a holistic program of high-impact efforts to support women’s careers. These include changing how Raytheon hires, developing the skill sets of women by identifying and closing experiential gaps, holding managers accountable for driving the program, and sponsoring and mentoring current and future women leaders.

Kennedy is supporting the next generation of women leaders both at Raytheon and at home. His daughter, Kelly, is an engineer in her own right, and she’s starting her career at a telecommunications company with a goal of someday being a CEO herself.

On March 7, Tom and Kelly appeared on a panel together at Leaders & Daughters Boston 2017, sponsored by recruiting firm EgonZehnder, to share their experiences and discuss how to cultivate the next generation of women leaders.

Kelly credits both her parents for teaching her that an education in STEM subjects would open doors when she launched her career. Early on, she knew her father’s engineering work for Raytheon was important.

“In middle school, I really understood he built things that were going to protect us,” she said. “Whatever he was building was making the U.S. a safer place.”

She remembers turning to her father as she took on the challenge of an engineering degree.

“He helped me with my homework,” she said. “And he knew it, too. I would come home and if I was stuck on something, we would take the whole Saturday and go over it. He showed me you could take something abstract and apply it to the real world.” While she was in college, Kelly became president of the local chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

“Being in engineering, there are not a lot of females,” she said. “I was looking for a support group; females in the same position as I was.” At the national SWE conference, Kelly made the connection that led to her first engineering work experience: An internship at Texas Instruments. She credits her father with helping her develop the confidence she needed.

“He always said, ‘Kelly, you can make the impossible possible,’” she said. “That’s his go-to quote and it stuck with me. I kind of live by that quote.”

“I’m glad it’s stuck with her,” Tom noted. “I use that quote a lot at Raytheon – to inspire leaders and teams. And I’m sure to back it up by sharing real-life examples of teammates who’ve accomplished great things despite obstacles and challenges.”

Tom’s mentorship of his daughter is just one in a series of strong mentoring relationships he’s had during his career. It’s part of his belief in seeking out and valuing diverse ideas and thinking. And at Raytheon, he believes that diversity is at the heart of everything the company does.

“As the company’s leader, I’m a strong advocate for change to strengthen our inclusive culture – a culture that rests on the foundation of values that emphasize trust, respect, collaboration, innovation and accountability,” said Tom. “It’s a journey, so I’m never satisfied when it comes to this issue. At some point, as the leader of the organization, you have to demand change.”

Tom and Kelly Kennedy

Tom and Kelly Kennedy speak with attendees at Leaders & Daughters 2017 in Boston.

Published On: 03/07/2017
Last Updated: 01/26/2018