Originally published at rtx.com. Raytheon Technologies ranked No. 41 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2022.
The 60 high school girls attending the Zoom panel were hearing all about the importance of mentoring women in cyber when one of them clicked off mute and got everyone’s attention.
She asked whether any of the panelists, all women who work at Raytheon Technologies, had ever experienced “imposter syndrome” — the feeling that you’re unworthy of your position.
“Everyone nodded their head,” said Emily Adams, a communications specialist for digital technology at Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business. “The way it was addressed by the panel — to believe in yourself — was incredible. It was impactful, and the girls heard that, and they’re so impressionable at that age. We all go through it.”
The panel was part of a two-week summer program with Girls Who Code, an organization that seeks to close the gender gap in entry-level tech jobs and change perceptions about what programmers look like and what they do. Girls Who Code is a strategic partner in Raytheon Technologies’ Connect Up initiative, which in turn is part of the company’s strategy to build a strong, diverse and inclusive pipeline of talent for STEM-related professions.
“Our strategy with these summer programs is intentional — to increase the number of women and people of color in tech and engineering careers. It’s a continuous process to remove the multiple barriers and pitfalls any student can have throughout their trajectory,” said Vince Campisi, Raytheon Technologies’ Chief Digital Officer and the Senior Vice President of Enterprise Services. “One of the ways we do that is to connect them with professionals of similar backgrounds and experiences. We want them to look at our employees and see themselves.”
A Summer of STEM
The summer program provided hands-on computer science education for girls in 10th through 12th grade, all while giving them a firsthand look at technology jobs as well as guidance from Raytheon Technologies mentors.
“They get to see people who are successful in this line of work,” said Amy Hammond, Senior Manager of People Strategy in Cyber Offense and Defense Experts, at Raytheon Intelligence & Space, who led the panel. “They get to say, ‘That person seems like me. If they’re successful, maybe I can be, too.’”
The most recent summer session was held virtually and included 350 students from the United States, India, Poland and the United Kingdom who have shown an interest in STEM but who have had limited opportunities to learn about those topics in their schools.
The girls worked on team coding projects, used a Girls Who Code portal to build websites about causes they support, and presented their work in a showcase to Raytheon Technologies employees and leaders.
Some of the students took a virtual tour of the new Advanced Integration Manufacturing Center at Raytheon Intelligence & Space’s McKinney, Texas site — hearing directly from the women engineers who helped design it and watching a demonstration of how they used laser technology to take precise measurements.
“They kind of walked away in awe that this capability exists and that they could potentially do this as a career later in life,” Adams said. “They were staring wide-eyed. They were mesmerized watching it unfold.”
The Bigger Picture
Raytheon Technologies’ partnership with Girls Who Code is part of the company’s Environmental, Social and Governance strategy, which in part seeks to build a talented and more diverse workforce in an environment where employees can grow.
“The cyber industry has a talent shortage, and it’s massive,” Hammond said. “There are so many choices now where talent can go — this is one way Raytheon Technologies is differentiating itself from the crowd.”
That was obvious during the cyber panel, which included early-career employees as well as senior leaders. The girls asked so many questions they ran out of time, so Hammond and Adams answered them offline.
“They just lit up that chat feature. They asked questions about the things that were on their mind,” Hammond said. “They really got a lot out of the session.”
Adams worked to coordinate and plan the summer 2022 program with about 70 employee speakers and volunteers.
“We want to inspire them to go into STEM, but it’s the other way around, too. They inspire all of us,” Adams said. “These high school juniors and seniors are brave enough to go into this virtual setting and do something they’ve never done before.”
Throughout the two-week program, Hammond and Adams saw the students engaged every day — connecting with Raytheon Technologies volunteers on LinkedIn, giving each other kudos and asking thoughtful questions like whether cyber careers were math-heavy, and whether there is a gender bias in the industry.
The question about imposter syndrome during the Zoom panel stuck with Adams. And she has some advice for anyone who feels they’re not good enough to be where they are.
“Knowing that other people go through it helps you overcome it,” she said. “Take a step back, look at things that you’ve accomplished in your life and remember that. Nobody walks the same path.”