Take Charge: Your Future’s Bright

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Lockheed Martin CEO and President Marillyn A. Hewson speaking to the Pratt & Whitney Women’s Leadership Forum
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Remarks by CEO and President Marillyn A. Hewson

 

Pratt & Whitney Women’s Leadership Forum

 

Hartford, Conn., May 15, 2013

 

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Thank you, Dave [Hess] for that wonderful introduction, and thank you for having me. Good afternoon, everyone. I’m honored to be here with you today. It’s energizing to see so many of you here. 

And I applaud your commitment to developing and engaging female talent through the Women’s Council and this forum.

As Dave shared with you, I was one of the founders of the Lockheed Martin Women’s Leadership Forum, which today is an annual meeting of 350 women leaders from across our company … and a network of events held throughout the year involving more than 2,500 women in professional development, networking and mentoring.  

We started informally.   I’d get together with a handful of women on the senior leadership team, monthly, and we’d talk about our careers and our challenges and issues like work-life balance.

Interestingly enough, at first we were just setting up informal lunches or meetings. And  then we decided to broaden the group  with a get-together of women from across the business held at our company’s annual senior leadership meeting.

It wasn’t long before some of the men joined us.   

At these get-togethers we talked about our work lives:
… the challenges we faced … the opportunities in front of us …  the similarities that connected us … and the differences that distinguished us.

In the end it made us a more collaborative, more productive, and a more effective team. You see, while we all face the same problems and pressures that come with our jobs, we each bring different perspectives.

Race, gender, social status, education, and experience all factor into how we perceive our world and how we react to it. 

When we bring together those individual perspectives and experiences, and we use that combined talent to address opportunities and challenges in our business, that’s what makes our business stronger.

And in today’s global marketplace and challenging economic environment, our industries need the very best ideas and a diverse workforce to continue to bring value to our customers and shareholders.

That’s really what I would like to focus on today: the value of embracing diversity at all levels of a company, and especially in leadership.

I’ll tell you a few stories that have shaped my career and we’ll talk a little bit about our shared responsibility when it comes to taking charge of our own careers. 

I’d like to start by spending just a little time talking about the evolution of women in the workforce because I think it sets the foundation for what we’ve accomplished and where we’re headed in the future.

So let me take you back to the fall of 1941.   

It’s the Glenn L. Martin Company factory in Omaha, Nebraska. They’re building the B-26 Marauder a huge, hulking, twin-engine bomber that became a cornerstone of Allied air power in Europe.

The production line stretches as far as you can see with thousands of workers driving rivets, bending metal, and installing the 25,000 parts that make up the B-26.

On October 20th, 19 women walk into the plant’s Human Resources office  ready for their first day of work.  

They were among the first of thousands of women who would join the Martin Company and the aviation industry as a whole.

At its peak some 40 percent of the Omaha plant’s employees were women. They were part of a nation-wide workforce of 486,000 women who rolled up their sleeves and helped power the arsenal of democracy.

Sybil Lewis an African-American riveter working at the Lockheed Company in Los Angeles perhaps summed it up best when she remarked: “You came out to California, put on your pants and took your lunch pail to a man’s job,” she said.

“This was the beginning of women feeling  that they could be something more."

I’m proud to be part of the industry  that helped women like Sybil Lewis realize their potential.  

And I think our industry can be and should be a leader in embracing and promoting diversity at all levels. Looking around today, it’s incredibly rewarding to see so many of you carrying on the legacy of those women who helped build the modern aerospace industry.   

We all owe them a debt of gratitude.

After the war, many women left the workforce, but by 1964 women accounted for almost 30 percent of non-farm jobs, and that number has risen to over 50 percent today.

And women continued to move into professional roles, including science and engineering as well as supervisory positions.

So you can see women have made great strides in the labor force, steadily increasing their presence in technical professional and managerial positions.  

Unfortunately we’re not seeing the same representation in the top levels of management.

A recent report of 385 companies shows just 13 percent of their management teams were women.

A mere 4.2 percent of the Fortune 500 companies are headed by women. And women hold only 14 percent of corporate board positions.

This last set of statistics suggests that we can do better when it comes to the representation of women in management and executive leadership and in the boardroom. So, how do we encourage the advancement of women in management and corporate governance?

This forum is an excellent example of doing just that.  

Companies like Pratt & Whitney and Lockheed Martin understand that diversity is a strength. The fact that you are all here is a testament to the Pratt & Whitney leadership team and their commitment to you.

I am personally passionate about talent development and have championed it throughout my career. It’s one of my major areas of focus as CEO of Lockheed Martin. I believe all of us have opportunities for development every day, from on-the-job learning to formal classroom training and through mentoring and coaching by our managers, our mentors, our colleagues and professional organizations.

In fact, when I started out 30 years ago in Marietta, Georgia, mentoring and talent development played a huge role in getting my career on the right track. When I was a relatively new supervisor the Vice President of Operations saw leadership potential in me and made the decision to get involved. 

He nominated me for the Lockheed General Management Development Program a very selective program with only four employees of 21,000 accepted. 

And it required him to do more than just put forward a nomination. He had to commit to having a job for me when I graduated from the program. It was clear that he genuinely wanted me to be successful at Lockheed. 

When I was accepted into the program he mapped out where I should go and for how long I should stay in each rotation to ensure my experiences were diverse and that I would be prepared for my next role.     

At the end of the two years he promoted me into my first department manager role.  And I felt prepared to be successful.

That experience turned out to be one of many turning points in my career. And it was all because a vice president in my company recognized my potential and understood the value of embracing diversity. 

That experience is one of the reasons I helped start the Lockheed Martin Women’s Leadership Forum. I think it’s important to talk and network with people you admire … people who have wisdom and experience … and people who have a different background that can add to your perspective.

This sharing of ideas either formally or informally is one of the most valuable tools you can equip yourself with as you move through your professional experience.

Entering into a mentoring relationship .also represents a significant investment that you make in your own career. And that’s where I think the next step for women in leadership really lies in taking charge of our own careers.  

Women must be prepared to take on new and more challenging assignments … and to pursue mentors … to network with others to learn from them.  And, most importantly, to always perform at our best and focus on continuous learning.

The theme of today’s conference “Taking Charge”  is spot on. To be successful you have to chart your own path—just like Sybil Lewis and her fellow Rosie the Riveters did all those years ago.

In the spirit of that theme I’d like to offer some perspective from my career.

Since I began my professional journey I have been guided by three principles:

  • Keep a solid grounding in values;  
  • Embrace the quiet honor in hard work; and,
  • Always accept a challenge.

I’ll start with values because that’s where leadership always begins.

One of the many reasons I have loved working at Lockheed Martin all these years is because I share the values of the corporation: Do What’s Right, Respect Others, and Perform With Excellence.

Is there anything better than investing yourself in a company that shares your values?

Those values guide every one of my decisions.

And let me tell you, for the really tough decisions you have to be standing on a solid foundation of values.

Closely tied to values is a sense of purpose.

At some point in each of our lives we need to ask ourselves what we stand for. And for me it’s a sense of patriotic duty that has made working for Lockheed Martin all the more fulfilling and meaningful.

I’m sure you feel the same way about working at Pratt & Whitney. For me the call to patriotic service started with my parents. At the age of 18 my dad was severely injured in a farming accident. Though he eventually recovered his injuries limited his future job opportunities.  He couldn’t work on the farm and he couldn’t join the military during the war even though he very much wanted to serve.

Despite those challenges my dad was determined to serve his country.  

He took a job as a civilian working for the Army starting at the mail room at Fort Riley, Kansas.   He worked his way up  to the top civilian job at the post and was promoted to oversee all civilian operations in Alaska for the Department of the Army at age 41. Had he survived, his next promotion was in the Pentagon.

My mother was just as inspiring.  Motivated by a strong sense of purpose she left her nursing school studies in Alabama to join the Women’s Army Corps as a nurse during World War II.  She met my father at Fort Riley.

They instilled values in me that guide me to this day. And that’s why I’m so proud to work in this industry.

Margaret Thatcher once said something that really captured the essence of values and purpose.  She said:  “Disciplining yourself  to do what you know is right and important  although difficult is the high road to pride self-esteem and personal satisfaction."

I couldn’t agree more.

My second principle was committing myself to working hard.

To some degree I think I’ve always been a hard worker. I grew up as one of five children and both of my parents had a strong work ethic that was obvious to all of us even at a young age.

A few years ago my mother showed me a handwritten note that I had left out for my father in the fourth grade  that read: “Daddy, please wake me up at 6 AM. I have a lot to do.”

So I guess that commitment started a long time ago for me. There’s dignity in hard work … in knowing that  you did your best that you met your commitments. And for me, that’s very personally satisfying. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have carried that mindset throughout my career. And the truth is, as you move up to higher levels of leadership, the hours are going to get longer and the responsibilities are going to get heavier.

I’ve been fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive family. My husband and our two sons have followed me through eight moves and some very stressful times.  

It hasn’t always been easy. And I couldn’t have done it without them.

I’ll tell you, though, executive leadership is not for everyone.

The advice I give our employees is: Decide for yourself what you want, and then own that decision. Discuss it with your family and make the choice  to do what it takes to achieve the goals that are important to you.  

Take charge of your career.

That really applies both personally and professionally. And there’s no right or wrong answer. As long as you embrace your own path, you’ll be successful and fulfilled.   

The third principle for me was to always accept a challenge.

In my 30 years with Lockheed Martin I have held 20 different leadership positions including this one. And, as I mentioned, I moved to a different location eight times. If I saw an opportunity where I thought I could contribute and it would help me grow, learn or develop, I took it.

And that meant taking on some pretty tough assignments, but they all made me a better leader and a stronger person.

Something I tell the young people that I mentor is: Don't set limits on yourself and be willing to get out of your comfort zone.

For me, it was about looking at everything as an exciting opportunity to grow myself personally and professionally and to demonstrate my talents in a different way.

Let me give you an example. 

About five years ago I took over as the head of our business in Owego, New York. Our biggest program in Owego was the new Presidential Helicopter. 

Not long after I arrived we received the devastating news that the Department of Defense was cancelling the program. That meant that I was going to have to tell hundreds of our employees  .who all worked so hard to make that program successful that they would no longer have a job. 

That was tough. It was probably one of the most difficult periods in my career. I’ll tell you how I handled it. I went back to my values: Do What’s Right,  Respect Others, and Perform With Excellence. 

So I told my team: “We’re going to be open, honest, and transparent with people throughout this process. We’re going to treat our employees with the respect, integrity, and fairness that they deserve. And we’re going to do everything we can, to help these people find another job because that’s the right thing to do.”

Even though that experience was incredibly difficult, employees appreciated that we embraced those values.  And it taught me that when times are tough that’s when values and open communication matter most. 

I’m a better leader today because I accepted that challenge. Taking charge of our careers means deciding what we want for ourselves …how we contribute … how we grow … and then striving to make it happen.

It’s been such an honor to speak with you today.

As I look around this room I am incredibly energized by this group of women and men, all here for the same purpose: to understand how we can better embrace our diversity and appreciate and promote each other’s talents.

Let me leave you with this: As you move through your career, think of those who paved the way before you and pay those dividends forward by championing others. 

That’s what my Vice President in Marietta did for me 30 years ago. That’s what every one of us can do for each other.   

Every day we have an opportunity to model the values of diversity by encouraging our colleagues to bring their best ideas forward, and by demonstrating the value of being collaborative.  

Invest in your development and the development of others by being a mentor or finding a mentor.

And make the most of opportunities like the one you have today to spend time with your colleagues, compare notes, trade stories, and learn from one another.

And, when you focus on your own career, take control.

Decide what is important to you and start on a path that will get you there. 

Start today … start right now.

Think about what you want out of your career and out of your life. What are your priorities?

Where do you want to be in five years in ten years? What are you willing to commit yourself to to work hard to achieve? What challenges are you willing to accept?

Only you know the right answer.

One thing I do know that holds true for all of us: the minute you take charge of your future you will be on a path toward fulfillment and success.  

And you can start your journey down that path today.

Your very presence at this forum tells me you are already moving in this direction.

And, I am convinced  that for you and for future generations of women aspiring to leadership,  the future is very bright.

Thank you.