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Boeing Korea’s New Engineering Center Achieves Gender-Balanced Workforce

Originally published on by Rosemary Lane. 

When Haesun Kim first walked through the glass doors of Boeing Korea Engineering & Technology Center, a new technology incubator in Seoul, she was surprised by the job interview.

“They asked me fundamental things that examined my potential,” she said. “In previous companies, I was asked more practical things and had to do a paper exam.”

She was also surprised not to be asked for her marital status, a box-check she had seen on other job applications at Korean companies.

“Every time I saw this, I wondered why it was necessary and whether I would be penalized for it,” she said. “It was new to me to be evaluated only on what I did and what I had accomplished.”

Previously, Kim had worked as a software developer and a safety manager for autonomous driving cars at one of Korea’s largest employers. She was eager to adapt her safety design skills to aerospace as a senior software engineer, and join a workplace culture that valued her experiences and was better suited to her lifestyle.

“I have more time to spend for myself,” she said. “And I saw more of where my career could take me. I thought, this is somewhere I can achieve my dream.”

The Boeing Korea Engineering & Technology Center opened as Boeing’s seventh international research center on Nov. 1, 2019, with an immediate advantage: 40% of its engineers are female, a remarkable feat in a country where less than 11% of engineers and engineering students are female.

The gender-balanced workforce was no accident. BKETC leaders sought to leverage the thriving, advanced electronics, displays and artificial intelligence technology in Korea to accelerate innovation in aerospace, and it needed top engineers with nontraditional aerospace backgrounds to help build this future.

“Our top priority was hiring the best talent for the new center,” said Jonathan Lee, managing director, BKETC. “We didn’t look for engineers with specific skills for the initial openings, but candidates who have potential to grow and are willing to invest in growing with the center. We wanted employees who could bring new and different perspectives to the aerospace industry. Diversity in gender, experience and perspective was intentional in putting together a well-balanced workforce.”

With few female engineers in Korea — and steep competition for software engineers from companies like LG, Samsung and Hyundai — Boeing needed to highlight its advantages, said Eric John, president of Boeing Korea.

In 2017, John and the employee-led business resource group Boeing Women Inspiring Leadership Korea, partnered with a Georgetown University MBA student team to develop best practices for creating a more gender-balanced workforce and to encourage more women to join the STEM field in Korea.

Incorporating the study’s recommendations, BKETC underscored its family-friendly practices: Female employees in Korea can take up to two years for maternity and childcare leave; Boeing Korea employs a 50-50 male-female workforce and hosts an active BWIL chapter; and, most notably, employees can take advantage of Boeing’s flexible working hours policies in an environment that values their diverse experiences and lifestyles.

Since opening, BKETC has been certified by Korea’s Ministry of Gender and Equality as a Best Family-Friendly Management Company. Kim, the software engineer, plans to work with Lee and her mentors to prepare for nomination to the Boeing Technical Fellowship, a career goal of hers.

“I have a supportive environment,” she said. “Now, I just need to keep up my work.”

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