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Role of women evolving in male-dominated missile defense industry

HUNTSVILLE — The role of women in the male-dominated missile defense industry “has evolved significantly,” according to Tay Fitzgerald, president of Strategic Missile Defense at Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

Fitzgerald made her comments at a “Fireside Chat” luncheon during last week’s Space & Missile Defense Symposium  The Women’s Business Council at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber sponsored the event which featured women business leaders from the Huntsville aerospace and defense industry.

The theme was “Why we need diversity of thought to get to next-generation capabilities.”

“It has evolved significantly,” she told the room full of women business owners and CEOs. “I see women today running some of the most critical technology programs and missions that defend our nation and allies today.”

The panel discussion also brought in Melissa Morrison-Ellis, program director for Strategic Missile Defense at Raytheon; Jami Peyton, founder and CEO of Canvas; and former U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk pilot PeggyLee Wright, executive director of the Alabama School of Cyber Technology & Engineering, the country’s only high school focused on cyber resiliency.

“We’re standing in the company of some of the brightest minds in the country, committed to taking on one of the most complex missions in the defense of our country, but we also have to look to the future,” Fitzgerald said.

The panel discussed the tests they faced gaining the trust and respect of their male co-workers and gaining their own confidence and developing their own skills so they could succeed in the fast-paced rough and tumble world of missile defense.

“The landscape of missile defense is changing, and we see it every day on the news, the threats are evolving, they’re more pervasive, more advanced,” Fitzgerald said. “The next generation capabilities are going to demand more of us than ever, pushing our technology and us to new limits.

“It’s incumbent on us to make a path in missile defense easier for the next generation of women, than it was for us.”

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