The Morgan Samuels Perspective

Women Take the Lead: Changes in Aerospace and Defense

Posted by Morgan Samuels on Mon, Aug 27, 2012

Martin HewettMartin Hewett, a Senior Client Partner and Practice Leader for the Aerospace and Defense industry at Morgan Samuels, has written a response to an article that recently appeared in Forbes Magazine – “Rise of Women Transforms Defense Industry.”  Mr. Hewett’s article, “Women Take the Lead: Changes in Aerospace in Defense” explains that women are finally achieving the long-overdue recognition they deserve in the Aerospace and Defense industry.  Women are progressing rapidly in the industry and moving into top executive positions due solely to their skill, talent, and capabilities as individuals.


Read the complete article below:

As more and more women become heads of billion-dollar global defense companies, the message is clear: the glass ceiling has a crack.  As a Senior Client Partner at Morgan Samuels, I’ve spent years witnessing first-hand the progress of women in every industry as they move into top executive positions.  I’ve also been privileged to help some of them get there.  Our recent placement of DeEtte Gray as President of BAE’s Intelligence and Security sector is the perfect example of putting the right leader in the right place: Ms. Gray has invaluable knowledge and experience, and it’s extremely satisfying to see her in a high-visibility leadership role.

I was happy to see several recent articles highlight the growth of women in Aerospace and Defense, including Forbes Magazine’s Rise of Women Transforms Defense Industry.  Women have been in the industry for much longer than people realize, and they are finally getting the recognition they deserve.  It was disheartening, to say the least, to see a comment that chalks it all up to a government mandate.

Women in leadership positions now started their careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields in the 70s and 80s.  They have decades of experience behind them, proving themselves in male-dominated fields.  What’s more, many of these women put in their years at the same company, despite a culture that didn’t exactly encourage their participation.  The homegrown nature of the new leaders shows they’ve gained credibility and experience within their organization.  Boards are now jumping at the chance to reward loyalty and outstanding work.

For executive recruiting firms, this means the days of focusing solely on diversity searches are long gone, and for a good reason: it’s not necessary.  At Morgan Samuels, every search means scouring the entire marketplace for the very best talent based on superior performance.  The final candidate slates are always diverse because diversity already exists in the market.  Firms don’t need to dig for women to build it, so it’s a serious mistake to look at diversity placements as mere mandates.

But even as these articles highlight the successes, it’s still painfully obvious that the culture within the engineering environment often dissuades too many women from pursuing careers in STEM fields.  Graduate enrollment in STEM fields has nearly tripled among women from the 70s to the present, and women perform at least as well as men across the board.  Yet gender disparity is still prevalent in the marketplace.  A study from MIT reveals that even now women just don’t feel comfortable in an engineering culture.  And the establishment really isn’t helping much. Women are still assigned “female” roles like note-taking during internships, for example, and women often say they aren’t taken seriously.

Having role models like those described in the Forbes article will do wonders to hasten the cultural shift, and I’ve been encouraged that Morgan Samuels’ results continue to reflect, rather than push, an increase of women in the marketplace.  Diversity is a priority for many valid reasons, but young women need to see that a clear path to the executive suite exists.  They need to see women ahead of them, like DeEtte Gray of BAE.  Today, thankfully, they finally can.

Topics: executive recruiters, morgan samuels, human capital consultants, top executive search firms