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AeroTech Shines Spotlight on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with Women-Led Keynote and Panel

Posted: March 16, 2022

The modern workforce functions better with multiple perspectives. Just ask Annabel Flores.

“Research shows that when we create an environment that is open for all employees to share their ideas and viewpoints, productivity improves,” the Raytheon Technologies President of Electronic Warfare Systems said during her IDEAL (inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, and leadership) keynote address Wednesday at SAE International’s AeroTech.

Flores has first-hand experience seeing just how far opening the workforce to creative diversity can go. At Raytheon, she authorized creative freedom for a group of professionals from differing background to work together on an active laser weapons system project to help crack challenges surrounding the technology. Within 18 months, this group of diverse contributors presented unique solutions that other industry experts predicted were at least five years away.

“We can achieve great things by making room at the table and creating an environment of respect and inclusion,” she said.

Echoing her sentiments were panelists Amy Grace, Pratt & Whitney; Brenda Mitchell, ALOFT AeroArchitects; Doline Peterson, Safran Power Unit; and Tammy Reeve, Patmos Engineering Services, Inc., led in discussion by moderator Rhonda Walthall, Collins Aerospace and SAE International Board Member.

The women talked about the power of mentors in the field, and how having representation in your field can make a big difference as a minority member in industry.

“This is the most critical thing you could do to start your career: find a mentor,” Mitchell said. “And not only should you look for a mentor, coach or guide, but also learn who the influencers are in your organization and get to know them. This will give you a really solid foundation.”

When faced with challenges, like work-life balance as a working mother or dealing with coworkers who questioned their ability, each woman had to learn how to overcome learned behaviors and conditioning from societal expectations for women, and they offered encouragement for women and minorities facing similar challenges in the workplace today.

“One thing I did was become a real advocate for myself early on in my career,” Reeve said. “You have to pick yourself up and move forward. If you don’t know something, ask.”

Peterson echoed Reeve’s statements with advice for women looking to enter the field.

“The best advice I can give is just go for it,” she said. “The industry is fascinating, so go for it. You might end up having a lot of fun.”