Linda Hudson - BAE Systems
President & CEO
Named one of Fortune Magazine's 50 Most Powerful Women in Business for the past three years, Hudson leads operations with 2011 revenues of $14.4 billion and approximately 43,000 employees in six nations. She began her defense career after receiving her bachelor’s degree in systems engineering from the University of Florida. Her commitment, passion and dedication to our men and women in uniform and military families are evident in her service on the USO Worldwide Board of Governors and Blue Star Families Board of Directors.
Why do you believe STEM Education and Workforce are important to our nation?
Recently, there has been a lot of concern about the U.S. slipping as an innovation leader due to waning numbers of STEM graduates. From a defense perspective, the problem is more alarming. Technology and engineering are the lifeblood of our industry. A significant proportion of our industry’s engineers are approaching retirement age. At the same time, we see a declining number of U.S. youth pursuing STEM-related careers. That’s not just a problem for our industry; it’s a problem for our country – so much so that DARPA has called the decline in STEM degrees a national security risk.
What traits do senior leaders need to effectively support and advance STEM today?
Despite mounting awareness of the problem, our society still tends to subscribe to the same historical stereotypes of what a STEM professional looks like. For decades this has influenced who we recruit, while simultaneously influencing who pursues a STEM education in the first place. Our leaders need to help our nation break free of this self-fulfilling prophecy. One important way we can begin to do this is by casting our recruiting net more widely into more diverse talent pools where there are large segments of qualified people.
What principles do you, as a leader, apply to your professional and personal life to advance the STEM cause?
I speak regularly at both industry conferences and to children in our schools. BAE Systems supports programs ranging from NMSI to Reach Out and Read. Personally, I am actively involved in the University of Florida School of Engineering, serve on boards for organizations such as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and support efforts like Change the Equation.
My role as the first female CEO in a historically male-dominated industry has given me a lot of visibility and afforded me many opportunities to advance STEM education and diversity and inclusion efforts. I mention D&I because I sincerely believe that harnessing diversity (of all sorts) will be essential to strengthening our STEM position here in theU.S.
What can we do to ensure more women leaders in STEM?
The shortage of women leaders in this country extends far beyond STEM. In Thailand, three out of ten companies have female CEOs. In China, the figure is just under 20 percent. Here in the North America, that number drops to one in twenty. There is clearly something at play beyond young girls not being interested in science and math.
In regards to STEM, one of the most important steps to ensure there are more women leaders is to ensure there are more women in the STEM education pipeline in the first place. To do that, we need to get all kids enthusiastic about STEM at an early age. We need to hold the imagination of young girls as they pass through that critical middle school age when many lose interest. In high school, we need to continue to show young women the exciting careers to which a STEM education can lead. And, of course, we must hire, mentor and promote them.