Women breaking glass ceiling in aerospace and defense

October 16, 20182 minute read

Korn Ferry points to the progress women leaders are making in the traditionally male fields of aerospace and defense. Currently four of the five largest United States aerospace and defense firms are run by women.

They are Marillyn Hewson, the CEO of Lockheed Martin, who topped Fortune’s list of Most Powerful Women this year; General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic; incoming Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy Warden, and Leanne Caret, who leads Boeing’s defense, space, and security division. The fifth of the largest firms, which is not led by a woman, is Raytheon.

The article in the Korn Ferry Institute publication quotes Fortune’s comments as it released its MPW list: “The once male-dominated defense and aerospace industry has, in a few short years, blown up its own glass ceiling, elevating women higher and faster than most of the Fortune 500.” The percentage of female leaders in the aerospace and defense industry is nearly four times as large as any other across all companies in the S&P 1500.

Jon Barney, a senior client partner with Korn Ferry’s industrial practice who specializes in aerospace and defense, explains, “At the board level, bringing women to the forefront and developing a more diverse workforce has been a front-and-center topic for aerospace and defense firms.”

However, as with the supply chain industry – according to the AWESOME/Gartner 2018 Women in Supply Chain Survey – women at levels below the C-suite aren’t faring as well and the pipeline is “uneven.” According to another Korn Ferry executive Jane Stevenson, global leader for CEO Succession and vice chairman of Board and CEO Services, “Organizations need help defining and following the necessary steps to maintain a proven pipeline of female leadership candidates, and women need help identifying the right career approaches to prepare for CEO roles.”

AWESOME and the leaders who attended the 2018 Symposium have some steps to suggest, and they can be found in the AWESOME Action Agenda: 16 Ways to Make Waves and Advance Women’s Leadership.