Women holding three of top spots in defense contracting


Lockheed Martin's Executive Vice President of Electronic Systems Marillyn Hewson. (LUKE MACGREGOR/REUTERS)
November 18, 2012

Come January, an industry traditionally dominated by male executives will look quite a bit different.

Linda Hudson will still be leading the Arlington-based U.S. unit of BAE Systems, and she’ll be joined in the top echelon by Marillyn A. Hewson, selected to become chief executive at Bethesda-based contracting giant Lockheed Martin, and Phebe Novakovic, who is set to take over the helm at Falls Church-based defense contractor General Dynamics.

Capital Business takes a look at the female executives leading these companies:

Linda Hudson

The child of two teachers, Hudson grew up in Florida watching the space program. She started at Harris and spent a dozen years at Martin Marietta. The business eventually became part of Lockheed Martin and her unit was later acquired by General Dynamics.

Hudson came to BAE in 2007 to run the company’s land and armaments business, and she took the top spot in 2009.

Earlier this year, her unit’s London-based parent company was in high-profile negotiations with Paris-based European Aeronautic Defence and Space, but the deal fell through.

Hudson’s challenge now is consolidating BAE’s U.S. unit, which grew dramatically through acquisitions over the past decade and now faces shrinking revenue. From 2010 to 2011, the company’s sales dropped nearly 20 percent, to $14.4 billion, while it cut its workforce by 12 percent, to about 41,000.

Marillyn Hewson

Hewson comes from a military family; her parents met at Fort Riley, Kan., during World War II, and her brother served in Vietnam.

Chosen to take over after CEO-to-be Christopher E. Kubasik was asked to resign following an investigation into a relationship he had with a subordinate, Hewson has held 19 leadership positions at Lockheed.

She started at Lockheed in the early 1980s and has seen the defense industry go through multiple cycles. In the mid-1980s, she said, she laid off one-quarter of her staff after a military aircraft program ended. In 2009, she had to trim employees after the presidential helicopter program was terminated.

“It’s never an easy thing to do,” she said in an interview.

Lockheed has already taken aggressive steps to get smaller, from offering buyouts to executives to closing facilities, but Hewson may have more to tackle as government spending shrinks.

Phebe Novakovic

Phebe Novakovic, who received her MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, started her career as an analyst for the McLean Research Center and soon became an operations officer for the CIA.

She rose within the government, serving as special assistant to both the defense secretary and deputy defense secretary from 1997 to 2001.

In 2002, she was named vice president for strategic planning at General Dynamics and has moved up, becoming senior vice president for planning and development in 2005 and taking over as president of the marine systems business in 2010.

She takes the lead at General Dynamics as the contractor has been rapidly diversifying to cope with anticipated declines in military spending. In recent years, General Dynamics has bought companies with expertise in expected growth areas such as health technology and cybersecurity.

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Lockheed Martin's Executive Vice President of Electronic Systems Marillyn Hewson. (LUKE MACGREGOR/REUTERS)
November 18, 2012

Come January, an industry traditionally dominated by male executives will look quite a bit different.

Linda Hudson will still be leading the Arlington-based U.S. unit of BAE Systems, and she’ll be joined in the top echelon by Marillyn A. Hewson, selected to become chief executive at Bethesda-based contracting giant Lockheed Martin, and Phebe Novakovic, who is set to take over the helm at Falls Church-based defense contractor General Dynamics.

Capital Business takes a look at the female executives leading these companies:

Linda Hudson

The child of two teachers, Hudson grew up in Florida watching the space program. She started at Harris and spent a dozen years at Martin Marietta. The business eventually became part of Lockheed Martin and her unit was later acquired by General Dynamics.

Hudson came to BAE in 2007 to run the company’s land and armaments business, and she took the top spot in 2009.

Earlier this year, her unit’s London-based parent company was in high-profile negotiations with Paris-based European Aeronautic Defence and Space, but the deal fell through.

Hudson’s challenge now is consolidating BAE’s U.S. unit, which grew dramatically through acquisitions over the past decade and now faces shrinking revenue. From 2010 to 2011, the company’s sales dropped nearly 20 percent, to $14.4 billion, while it cut its workforce by 12 percent, to about 41,000.

Marillyn Hewson

Hewson comes from a military family; her parents met at Fort Riley, Kan., during World War II, and her brother served in Vietnam.

Chosen to take over after CEO-to-be Christopher E. Kubasik was asked to resign following an investigation into a relationship he had with a subordinate, Hewson has held 19 leadership positions at Lockheed.

She started at Lockheed in the early 1980s and has seen the defense industry go through multiple cycles. In the mid-1980s, she said, she laid off one-quarter of her staff after a military aircraft program ended. In 2009, she had to trim employees after the presidential helicopter program was terminated.

“It’s never an easy thing to do,” she said in an interview.

Lockheed has already taken aggressive steps to get smaller, from offering buyouts to executives to closing facilities, but Hewson may have more to tackle as government spending shrinks.

Phebe Novakovic

Phebe Novakovic, who received her MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, started her career as an analyst for the McLean Research Center and soon became an operations officer for the CIA.

She rose within the government, serving as special assistant to both the defense secretary and deputy defense secretary from 1997 to 2001.

In 2002, she was named vice president for strategic planning at General Dynamics and has moved up, becoming senior vice president for planning and development in 2005 and taking over as president of the marine systems business in 2010.

She takes the lead at General Dynamics as the contractor has been rapidly diversifying to cope with anticipated declines in military spending. In recent years, General Dynamics has bought companies with expertise in expected growth areas such as health technology and cybersecurity.

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