As of the start of 2019, 4 of the nation’s 5 biggest defense contractors are female-led.

CEO’s of Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, the defense arm of Boeing are women. After what has always been male-dominated, the decades of women entering STEM has acted as a watershed. Lockheed Martin CEO, Marillyn Hewson believes it is also the result of, “Quieting that little voice in your head that doubts whether you can do that next job or take on that special assignment.”

Having women at the top affects companies and defense agencies in large ways. The different perspectives bring new questions, negotiations, and ideas to confront complex global challenges.

Along with running the Military Industrial Complex, women also hold senior government jobs in designing and purchasing the military arsenal. Those women include:

Kathy Warden- President and CEO, Northrop Grumman

Marillyn Hewson- President and CEO, Lockheed Martin

Phebe Novakovic- Chairman and CEO, General Dynamics

Leanne Caret- President and CEO, Boeing Defense, Space & Security

Ellen Lord- Undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment

Heather Wilson- Secretary of the Air Force

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty- Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration

Andrea Thompson- Undersecretary of state for arms control and international security

These women along with others are challenging the traditional orthodox of leadership in these high positions. Karen Panetta, dean of graduate education at Tufts University’s School of Engineering, is often asked about the benefits of women in leadership. She tells the story of soldiers in the desert using pantyhose to keep the sand out of their equipment, “Do you think a guy thought of that?” she asked. “For the longest time, these male-dominated organizations missed half of the population’s perspective on an issue or on an approach.”

“One of my biggest challenges has been resisting the temptation to tell myself I couldn’t do something.” – Lynn Dugle, CEO at Engility

Although women in STEM is a growing trend, it will be hard to maintain the momentum. CEO of Lockheed Martin, Marillyn Hewson says she has made it a priority to recruit women. She added, “We want this positive trend to continue. We invest in a number of programs to inspire young women to focus on science, technology, engineering and math in school. We want to encourage more young women to pursue STEM careers so they can help us tackle tough challenges.”