It’s no secret that the United States’ military arms business has historically been almost entirely dominated by men. But in recent years, the field has undergone a remarkable transition as women now control top leadership roles at the country’s most important defense contractors. And when it comes to negotiating purchases, the majority of governmental officials sitting across from said contractors are now women as well.
Andrea Thompson, a former Army officer who serves as Donald Trump’s undersecretary of State for arms control and international security affairs, is now the leading official for negotiating U.S. arms sales and negotiating international weapon’s agreements. National Nuclear Security Administration chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the first woman to ever lead the government body, is responsible for the production and maintenance of the country’s nuclear arsenal. In separate interviews, both women acknowledged that the industry was still heavily tilted toward men.
“I tell folks that one of the positive aspects of serving is equal opportunity and equal pay,” said Thompson. “Many times, I was the only woman in the room. But I was always treated the same.”
On the other side of the table, Lockheed Martin, the country’s largest military contractor, has been led by Marillyn Hewson, a seasoned industrial engineer with three decades of experience, since 2013. Defense giant General Dynamics is helmed by Phebe Novakovic, a former intelligence officer. Boeing’s Defense, Space and Security division is run by Leanne Caret. And at the start of the new year on January 1, Kathy Warden, a longtime executive, was named CEO of Northrop Grumman, a government contractor that reported more than $20 billion in defense-related revenue in 2017.
“I think there’s critical mass, where you have enough women that they’re getting noticed,” explained Rachel McCaffrey, a retired Air Force colonel who now serves as the executive director of career development and networking organization Women in Defense.
But for women to continue to ascend to top leadership positions, she warned, would take sustained recruitment efforts from both the private and public sectors alike.
“I think this is great, but not if 10 years from now, these women are gone and we’re back to having all white men in these positions,” said McCaffrey.
Read the full story at Politico.