Women play important role in the defense industry

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Some of the largest companies handling major contracts for the U.S. military are run by women. Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman are all led by women.

More and more industry experts are recognizing that diversity is key to strengthening our defense with the knowledge, leadership skills, and connections necessary to serve the nation. Women play an important role in creating a diverse defense workforce.

The Space and Missile Defense Symposium is in Huntsville this week and shares how women are changing the landscape of the defense industry.

Mary Stewart is an example of how the industry has evolved.

10 years ago, Mary Stewart was a successful make-up artist. Her final job in the industry was making vice president Joe Biden look good at president Obama's first inauguration. But Stewart's passion is math and science, so she went back to school and pursued a very different career.

"I'm a radar scientist, so my background is math and physics," she said. "I run a small small business program there where we do research on RDS and point Scatter models."

Stewart has noticed a change in the landscape of the defense field.

"When I first started in a room of 20 guys I might be the only woman, but now it's almost half women sometimes," she said. "And that's a really exciting thing to see in the field."

The increase in women is good news, because women contribute unique perspective, she said.

"I find that women a lot of times, they might think a problem through a little bit more differently," says Stewart.

Now with the progression of STEM-based education, Stewart says more girls realize they can pursue a career in defense.

"I think that sometimes society tells us that we can't take on those problems, but it's the young girls that you know, first graders, second graders anybody that doesn't know the difference of I can't do this or I shouldn't be doing this or this is out of my reach," Stewart says.

And she says she wants to be a part of inspiring the next generation.

"You have to get them really young to say 'No, you can do this. You can do this just as well as any guy can do it, if not better,'" she says. "And I love to see that, that's really coming around."

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