2015 World Assembly for Women
Thank you, Ms. [Maoko] Kotani. I’m honored to be here at the World Assembly for Women and to see so many leaders and distinguished guests from around the world. And I’m humbled to be sharing the stage with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I know you agree that her remarks were truly inspirational.
Before I begin, I want to commend Prime Minister Abe and Minister Kishida for bringing us together. Thank you for your leadership in expanding opportunities for women here in Japan and around the world. This assembly is only two years old and already it is making its mark, just as Japan has impressed the entire world with its strides in supporting women’s engagement and leadership.
Prime Minister, you’ve described your vision for creating “a society in which women shine.” This is an important challenge and a great opportunity for the global community. Everybody in this room understands the power of women’s potential and shares your excitement for the future. Because we know that empowered women benefit everyone in Japan – and all around the world.
We’ve seen this first-hand at Lockheed Martin. The truth is women have always been part of our story. When Glenn Martin was building his very first aircraft more than a century ago, it was his mother, Minta Martin, who stood by him in the workshop as he worked into the night. In the decades that followed, thousands of women served on factory floors and assembly lines to bring his aircraft to life.
Yet even with this legacy, it’s no secret that women have been under-represented in the aerospace and defense workplace – especially in leadership positions and technical fields. I saw it myself when I started my career over 30 years ago and I was often the only woman in the room. That’s why I’m especially excited to be here to have this chance to share the Lockheed Martin story. Because our experience shows that change, while difficult, is possible.
Today I’m proud to serve as CEO of Lockheed Martin, representing a work-force of 112,000 people. Twenty-five percent of our employees are women, including 22 percent of our leadership – and a third of our board of directors are women. These numbers aren’t just good for individual women. They’ve been good for our whole company.
When there is more diversity around the table, it inspires more innovation and better breakthroughs, because different backgrounds offer new perspectives. People with different experiences and viewpoints push everyone to be better, to challenge their assumptions, and to think more creatively.
A great example comes from the early days of voice recognition software. When this innovation was first developed it was hailed as a major breakthrough. There was just one problem: the first version didn’t work well for women. The design team didn’t include a woman – and they didn’t test the prototype on women. The result was that the software was designed primarily to hear lower voice tones. I don’t think Siri would have approved of that! Having a woman on that team could have shown what they were missing and helped design an even better product right from the beginning.
And building better products is the secret to business success. This is exactly what we’ve seen at Lockheed Martin. Over the past decade we’ve experienced record growth and innovation. And I firmly believe that our diversity and inclusion strategy has been key to that. We’ve launched some of the biggest programs in our company’s 100-year history while increasing sales by more than 10 billion dollars. And our stock price during that time has nearly quadrupled.
The research backs this up. Catalyst, a global non-profit organization focused on women in business, has done extensive research about how companies perform when women are included in leadership positions. In its most recent report, they found that companies with multiple women on their board of directors have a 26 percent higher return on invested capital than companies with all-male boards.
McKinsey did a similar study that found that companies with women in leadership roles score better when it comes to “organizational health” – meaning employees feel more accountability, stronger motivation and more positive about the workplace environment as a whole. Put simply, a workplace in which women shine is a place that shines overall. And that’s what we must all strive for today.
However, despite all that we stand to gain from empowering women, unfortunately their potential often remains untapped. Last year there were more women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies than ever – and yet, they still represented less than 5 percent of the total. Here in Japan, that number is only about 3 percent. The data clearly shows that we still have work to do. And fortunately, we know how to do it. We know exactly how to advance a culture where all people can do their best work.
So today I’d like to share three keys for unlocking women’s potential in business. The three keys are:
- Leadership from the top;
- Engagement at all levels;
- And an environment that fosters success for all.
Leadership. Engagement. Environment. Let me speak to each in turn.
As Prime Minister Abe has demonstrated, leadership from the top is essential. Leaders set the tone – not just by what they say, but by what they do. I’m very proud that my predecessors at Lockheed Martin took this to heart, beginning in the late 1990s with our CEO during that time. He and the rest of our executive team foresaw that a large number of our workers were nearing retirement. They also realized that the pool of candidates with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—the STEM Fields—was not keeping up with demand.
So Lockheed Martin set out to cultivate, attract, and retain new talent with a focus on women. How did we do this?
For more than a decade, Lockheed Martin has invested in what we call our Women Accelerating Tomorrow initiative. This collection of programs, processes, and tools supports women’s advancement in our company and in our communities. We’ve re-invented our talent management systems to promote diversity and inclusion. We’ve developed workshops to engage all leaders in honing their inclusive behaviors. And we’ve stepped up our efforts to encourage women of all ages to pursue STEM careers.
We started by establishing an Executive Diversity Council, led by our President and Chief Operating Officer, and the highest-ranking members of our leadership team. In its first year, the Council established a diversity vision and mission that aligned with our business objectives. And, we’ve been building on that foundation ever since.
I share this history to help underscore the fact that when I became CEO in 2013, it wasn’t so much a great leap forward. Rather, it was a natural next step in a deliberate process of recruiting, developing and promoting women that had been underway for years. That process started at the top and the whole company knew it.
The second key to unlocking women’s potential is engaging women at every level. In part, that means building a culture of mentoring which helps ensure that women just starting out have the opportunities to develop their skills.
In my case, I’d known how much I wanted to work at Lockheed Martin from the moment I first saw the aircraft assembly line more than 30 years ago. I was instantly attracted to the technology, the mission, the customers, and the values inherent in our work. And I was fortunate at the beginning of my career to have someone in the company who was invested in my success.
The Vice President of Operations recognized my potential and he nominated me for a very selective management development program where only 4 out of 21,000 employees were accepted. It required him to do more than just put forward a nomination. He also had to stay engaged with my career. He had to commit to having a job for me when I finished. And, when I was accepted in the program, he helped me get the most of the experience to ensure that I would be prepared for my next role.
At the end of the two-year program, he promoted me into my first departmental management role. That experience was a turning point in my career. And it was all because a vice president in my company believed in my ability and cared enough to get involved and help me move forward. This kind of engagement is crucial.
And, it is just as important to support women as they work to lift themselves up and raise up each other. Because taking responsibility for our own careers is empowering in and of itself. And by coming together, we can help each other forward and help our organizations to thrive.
That’s what we did at Lockheed Martin. Back in 2001, when I was one of about eight women on the corporate staff in various senior roles, we set up a monthly luncheon where we could come together and talk about business issues, family issues, and professional development. From there, as the number of women in the company continued to grow, we established an annual Women’s Leadership Forum to broaden and include women at all levels of our company in the conversation.
And now we have more than 300 women at Lockheed Martin participating in this important event every year, where they build their network, share success stories, address their unique workplace challenges, and find new ways to support the next generation of women leaders.
One of those future leaders is Edwina Paisley, an employee from our Space Systems business. She called her first experience attending one of these events “invigorating.” She said that it was empowering to network with other women in her company and other businesses at Lockheed Martin as well. Edwina told me she had a vice president who was a Leadership Forum member and a mentor to her. As a result of networking with established and respected women leaders, she was encouraged to seek an opportunity that was drastically different from previous roles.
Today, Edwina is helping our Commercial Space division build our international business from the ground up, using her engineering experience and networks across the organization to make the company even more competitive in the exciting world of space exploration. All thanks to having support and engagement from other women peers and leaders in our company.
That brings me to the third key for unlocking women’s potential: Creating a supportive environment that fosters success for all.
Too often, the business environment can be very challenging for women who want a full life, who have professional ambitions, and who want to have a family and children too. No one wants to be forced to choose. And I don’t think anyone should have to.
I’ve certainly struggled with balancing my family and my career. Though, I’ve always been able to draw inspiration from my greatest role model: my mother. When my father died when I was nine, my mom found herself raising five children by herself. However she never lost her positive attitude. My mother always emphasized the importance of turning challenges into opportunities. She understood that great leaders are driven by purpose, and the impact they leave must be larger than their own footprints. To this day, no matter how tough things get, her un-flagging optimism keeps me going.
Her example reminds me to look for opportunities when faced with roadblocks, and to look for ways to break down those barriers for others. There are things business leaders can do to make sure all employees have the chance to do their best – both at work and at home.
While companies have worked hard to eliminate overt discrimination, McKinsey and Company reports that of all the forces that hold women back, none are as powerful as entrenched beliefs. Managers, male and female, often eliminate viable female candidates because they assume that a woman won’t be able to handle particular jobs and their family obligations. McKinsey has also found that many women still stand in their own way because they often do not believe that they’re ready to take on more responsibility. This is simply unacceptable.
We must continue to drive culture change. We must continue to reach out to the next generation and make sure women feel empowered and equipped to pursue any job they are qualified for. That comes from showing young girls and women the power of what is possible.
At Lockheed Martin, we’ve invested in a number of programs to reach this new generation. One is a program with the organization Girls, Inc., which encourages younger girls to be bold, to be smart, and to learn new things.
Doctor Lori Bryant is a great example. Lori is a Pediatric Emergency Room physician and a Girls Inc. alumna. She said that the support she experienced at Girls Inc. was critical to helping her reach her aspirations at times when she felt different from her peers. A youth counselor she worked with used to call her “Doc” because Lori was always talking about how she wanted to become a doctor. Just hearing her mentor talk to her like it was really possible went a long way in making her dream come true. Today Dr. Lori Bryant works with Girls Inc. to inspire young girls herself. She says her background “piques their interest and they want to talk about science.”
Like Dr. Bryant, each of us today has the opportunity and the responsibility to create an environment where our current and future female leaders can reach for the stars and achieve their aspirations. Ultimately we want girls and boys to know that women are capable of extraordinary things and that none of us should ever put limits on ourselves.
Together it’s up to us to help each other soar. And we can do that by leading from the top, by engaging women at all levels, and by building an environment that fosters success for everyone. These are the three keys to unlocking the power of women’s potential. For all of us, they are the keys to unlocking growth, innovation, and lasting success.
Japan’s flag proudly features the rising sun – a sun that shines down upon the people of this country. And we know that all of those people should be able to shine right back.
Prime Minister Abe, Minister Kishida, distinguished colleagues, guests and friends, the world’s women are eager to rise. They are ready to perform. They are ready to excel. And they are ready to make a difference. And the more that they shine, the better the future will be for us all.
Thank you very much.