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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: CAITLIN HAYDEN
DOUG: Caitlin, as we get started, I think it would be great if you could just give some context to the audience about where you work. Tell us a little about BAE Systems.
CAITLIN: Yeah, sure. So, I’m the Senior Vice President for Communications at BAE Systems Inc., which is the American subsidiary of a larger British company that’s based in the U.K. The U.S. business has about 38,000 employees, mostly in the U.S., some in the U.K. and in Sweden. And we’re one of the largest defense companies in the U.S. We are defense technology company. We do mostly defense. We do some commercial work, but supplying defense services and equipment to the U.S. government and to other governments around the world. So, manufacturing work, high tech work, electronic warfare, a lot of really interesting stuff.
DOUG: A lot of that’s traditionally been a male dominated industry. So, what’s it been like for you as a woman to have a senior position, and is that industry becoming more open, any guidance tips for women who are interested in male… previously “male dominated” industries to advance?
CAITLIN: Yeah. So, I’ve spent most of my career in the national security space where the dynamic is really similar. And so, jumping into a place like BAE Systems, that has been something I’m a bit accustomed to. But you’ve hit on a point, which is that things are changing. I’m really lucky I get to work in a senior leadership team that is 50% women. The company’s top leadership, there are 14 of us, seven of us are women. And so, I think it has been a fantastic experience for me, and that has taken a lot of deliberate work. If you look around the industry, I think two years ago, the Forbes Most Powerful Women list, a number of those women were defense CEOs, Marilyn Houston of Lockheed Martin, Kathy Warden of Northrop Grumman, Leanne Caret of Boeing, Phebe Novakovic from General Dynamics. You can start to see the leadership from the top. And that’s a really inspiring thing, and a signal that this is an industry that is changing, for sure.
DOUG: Yeah, and it’s not just having a more diverse team as a business imperative because it’s the right thing to do. We know diversity increases output, improves results, etc. So, what can you tell about the environment that’s needed help attract and get women into more leadership positions at organizations, maybe things specific to your organization that helped to become a dramatic change from, say, where it might have been ten years ago?
CAITLIN: Yeah, so it is not just something you can give lip service to, not just a choice you can make at the top. The leadership and the businesses have to be invested in it. And it takes constant, constant focus, I think for BAE Systems. We actually had a female CEO who was kind of deemed the first lady of defense, and we were sort of early onm and after some business changes, we realized that we needed a more sustained amount of work to make sure that women and people of color were in positions of leadership and that that was flowing all the way down. For us, it was it was a series of steps all combined together from setting goals that were a part of your incentive plan that you had to meet that are slates for hiring were diverse, that in every case at a certain level you had to have a woman or person of color interviewed. Not just on paper, interviewed for the role and considered. And if that slate didn’t include those people, it got sent back. The search got slowed down until we got the panels that we needed. Making sure that across the company we were… big company meetings included women and people of color, that increasingly women and people of color were given exposure to the highest level discussions in the company. And if those lists didn’t include enough women and people of color, they got sent back until we got it right. And so, focus like that over years, increased sponsorship and mentorship, diversity training at the highest levels of the company on down, those were all really important factors to get us here. And I think more recently, one of the things that’s really helped us kind of make some of these senior positions more available was being flexible about location. The team really took a look at the data and realized that women were turning down relocation options far more often than men for senior positions. And so, we stopped to really ask ourselves, do these roles have to be at headquarters? Can we have people doing them remotely and traveling back and forth? And that opened up other opportunities as well. And I think if you look at where we are now in the COVID world, we’re seeing that we can do that. And so, I hope that plays out even further.
DOUG: Right, and that’s a change that will stay in terms of where you’re physically located for many jobs isn’t as important as it used to be. You’ve also made a proactive effort to engage with employees outside of your own bubble and have multiple people do that. Can you explain how you’ve been able to do that and how that also helps increase DE&I at the organization?
CAITLIN: Yeah. So, now that we can’t travel the way that we used to, I mean, we used to rely heavily, probably like a lot of organizations on town halls and CEO visits. And we’re taking all that virtual and especially in the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and others realized that there was a need to be creating spaces for dialogue in the company. And what that’s meant is that people like me in senior leadership roles who might sometimes get stuck at headquarters, have a chance to hear from our employees in a way that I wouldn’t normally. And that’s been the case for me and my peers on the senior leadership team as we are getting to hear from people all across the business on topics, not just business topics, not just briefings on a program, or a contract win, but about DE&I, and what they want to see us doing, what they want from the leadership team, and frankly, just how they’re feeling. Hearing the stories that they are experiencing at work, what they’re experiencing at home and what they bring to the workplace every day has been so incredibly valuable. And I think we’ve been able to do more of it because we’ve been virtual. At BAE Systems we call a lot of them courageous conversations, and we really try to create that safe space for employees to share and to listen and to be a senior leader who gets to sit in and listen without any attention placed on me, and I don’t have a speaking role where I get to hear has been incredibly valuable because we take all those stories into our meetings. We take as we deliberate subject, as we make decisions, we’re carrying those stories with us, and it’s incredibly powerful to hear your employees talk about their experiences. I think it’s just an exposure we didn’t always have as easily before. So, it helps us get outside that bubble. We’re very deliberate about it, making sure we are taking part in these events that are sponsored by our employee resource groups across the company.
DOUG: And because communicators spent so much of our work times online, we often don’t realize that not every employee has that luxury. Some might be in manufacturing, working in a plant, or assembly, where they’re not getting messages. How do you solve the issue of communications and access to them? I believe you developed an app that you use for that.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Our colleagues in the U.K. have an app that they are already using, and the U.S. business is getting close to adopting one. Because you hit it on the head. We have employees who are in shipyards, who are on manufacturing lines, who are not tied to email, who not only can’t get messages from us on business matters, but can’t take part in some of these meaningful discussions because they don’t have access, they don’t have a way to get connected or express interest, or even read sometimes what their colleagues are saying. And so, for us, an app is a good solution to be able to on someone’s mobile device when they have the time to be able to stay connected. And I think all of us feel kind of email fatigue. And to have a way to not just shove things into people’s email boxes all day, but to access stuff that is tailored to you when you’re ready for it is, I think, going to be a game changer for our ability to engage our employees. It is a big task to try and bring people into a culture and keep everybody on the same page with where the business is that if you can’t reach them.
DOUG: That’s such an important point. Caitlin, I just want to thank you for mentioning another type of fatigue beyond Zoom fatigue because I was getting a little fatigued with all the discussion about Zoom fatigue, so, thank you for that. But more importantly, thank you for really delivering phenomenal insights of how organizations can really communicate effectively internally while setting goals they can achieve in DE&I, and congratulations on your success.
CAITLIN: Thank you so much.