Combatting the Subtle Headwind by Increasing Diversity and Inclusion Awareness

October 29, 2015 | Author: Barbara Brockett

Recently I was honored to be recognized by the national Society of Women Engineers (SWE) with its Suzanne Jenniches Upward Mobility Award. Each year the award is given to a woman who has risen in her company, influences the decision-making process and creates a nurturing environment for other women in the workplace. As a champion for women in engineering, I see this award as an opportunity to create additional awareness for diversity and inclusion in our industry.

My relationship with SWE was cultivated about 10 years ago when I realized I needed to pay it forward. I felt fortunate for working on some of the most impactful products in the aerospace industry and navigating a path to rewarding leadership roles. As I looked around me, I realized there were just a handful of women engineers in leadership ranks. I also saw that our engineering pipeline did not represent diversity to the extent that it should.

This inspired me to take a seat on the SWE Corporate Partnership Council and join forces with others who shared my passion for diversity and inclusion. I am proud to see the momentum and results we have achieved throughout Honeywell. Within Aerospace Engineering and Technology, we have deployed programs that are improving the hiring, development and advancement of women and minority engineers. We have accomplished a lot, but have more to do.

Reflecting on my 33 years in this industry, I can honestly say that I have only encountered outright bias a couple of times. But, what I have experienced is what I refer to as a “subtle headwind.” It’s hard to see and hard to describe, but proves to be a real challenge for women engineers.

It includes things like unconscious bias that causes a manager to unknowingly scan past the unique talent of a female team member when assigning a leadership role or special task. Or that phenomenon where a woman’s ideas are sometimes hard to hear and listen to during brainstorming sessions. It is the discouragement women, and people of color, experience when they look up and are unable to see someone like themselves in a technical or business leadership role.

Thanks to an increased awareness, and the hard work of many of my colleagues at Honeywell and within industry, we are implementing tangible solutions to this subtle headwind.

Looking back at my own career junctures, there are several pieces of advice I would offer to all women engineers:

  • Opportunities will arise when you sit at the table with confidence
  • Doors will open when you raise your hand for new opportunities
  • Innovations will be better when you speak up and share your ideas, and repeat them when necessary
  • Rewards will be boundless when we pay it forward as visible role models, mentors and sponsors for others who are navigating a career in this rewarding field

I also have advice for every manager: be that extraordinary leader who can bring every voice to the table and every idea to the solution. Look for the unique talent in an employee that others scan past. Strive to be the executive who surrounds herself with a team of different backgrounds and experiences, and who knows that the quiet staff leader can deliver powerful results. As a practice, be open to flexible work arrangements since that part-time working parent may bring game-changing innovation to our products.

Barbara Brockett

Barbara Brockett

Barbara Brockett is the Aerospace Vice President of Engineering Test Services. Brocket joined Honeywell in 1983. She has served in multiple leadership roles including Military Full-Scale Drone Business Leader, OH-58 Business Leader, Flight Controls Product Line Director, Electronics Systems Engineering Vice President and Engineering Operations Vice President. She is the Aerospace Engineering & Technology Diversity and Inclusion Council co-leader and Honeywell’s SWE executive sponsor. Brockett holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Mexico. She lives in Phoenix with her husband, Steve. She has three children and two grandchildren.

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