CEOs in the Aerospace and Defense (A&D) sector know they need to keep forging ahead with their diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives. Yet, the percentage of women in the A&D workforce has been stuck at around 24 percent since 2014 (with a slight dip in 2016). The percentage of female executives and the percentage of female engineering executives declined from 2017 to 2018, after rising a year earlier. And while the percentages on the hiring of diverse groups increased last year, no single group topped 10%.1
With a strong economy and low unemployment rate, A&D is competing for managerial, technology, and engineering skills with many other industries. As US demographics shift, with proportionally more non-white, foreign-born, and female employees in the US workforce, it will further diminish A&D’s traditional talent pool and intensify the need to expand hiring the talent pool.
Some A&D companies are stepping up in dramatic ways. Female CEOs now lead three top US defense firms, bucking the overall decline at Fortune 500 companies,2 and another company has had a woman heading one of its major businesses since 2016. These women have an opportunity to make a real difference in D&I and provide role models for women coming up the ranks. Two of these female CEOs recently won the Catalyst award for their work in promoting D&I.3
These female-led companies as well as some others in the sector are making a major effort to embed D&I as a core business goal. They are following five key actions that help make D&I initiatives successful:
Successful D&I programs have to come from the top-down and the bottom-up. Senior management has to show its commitment through voice and deed. Employees have to buy into the importance of a diverse workforce and support that vision through both day-to-day actions and participation in employee-led initiatives.
1. Hedden, Carole. “A&D Shifts Focus to Reskilling, Recruiting, Reshaping Workforce.” Aviation Week, 13 Sept. 2018.
2. Sonnenfeld, Jeffrey. “Female CEOs Taking Control Of A Male-Dominated Industry.” Chief Executive, 18 July 2019, chiefexecutive.net/female-ceos-male-dominated-aerospace-industry.
3. Masunaga, Samantha. “In aerospace industry, female execs soar to the top.” The Bulletin, 8 Aug. 2018.