Solving today’s critical technical challenges requires diverse thinkers at the table, with engineers, scientists, information technology professionals and mathematicians coming together from all walks of life.

Women, however, remain sorely underrepresented as engineers, hampering our nation’s ability to solve some of the most daunting problems of the future. According to a 2012 U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee report, only 14 percent of engineers are women.

Raytheon Company, including our global Missile Systems business which has several women in key engineering roles, is working to increase that metric.

As we recognize National Engineers Week through Saturday, we stand strong in our commitment to inspire young Arizona students — girls and boys — to become the engineers of the future. Their energy, creativity and inspired minds are critical to a strong and secure future.

Based in Tucson, Raytheon Missile Systems is the world’s largest missile maker and Southern Arizona’s largest private employer. Signature programs include Standard Missile, Maverick, Paveway, AMRAAM and Tomahawk.

At Raytheon, we work toward a day when women are fully represented throughout the engineering discipline by pursuing several key programs:

  • Inspiring girls at Desert View High School:
  • Twenty-five female Raytheon engineers are mentors in a girls-only science, technology, engineering and math class, sparking excitement in STEM through projects, field trips and speakers.
  • Teachers in Industry:
  • Raytheon annually offers summer employment to seven teachers — often women — working toward master’s degrees. Teachers get industry experience and wages, and bring enthusiasm and knowledge back to the classroom.
  • Scout Day:
  • Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona converge on Raytheon annually for an opportunity to participate in hands-on projects.
  • Raytheon Women in Engineering, Science and Technology:
  • RWEST encourages women employees to stay in the technical side of the business, matching early career women with engineering fellows who serve as mentors. RWEST Jr., pairs female students in STEM fields at the University of Arizona with early career female Raytheon employees.

RMS sponsors other programs that promote STEM to all students. Among them is MathMovesU Day, an annual program in partnership with the UA that brings in 150 high school students.

Other programs include Engineering is Elementary, Youth Day, Arizona STEM Adventures and Math Nights at Sunnyside High School, where more than 70 percent of students reported that tutoring by Raytheon employees raised their grades.

Perhaps most inspirational for Tucson girls are Raytheon’s women engineers. Take Laura McGill, deputy vice president of engineering at RMS, who helps make some of our most critical decisions. Laura assists in overseeing 6,000 engineers in 50 programs. She helps develop our strategic direction and is responsible for attracting the best and brightest minds.

Sharon O’Neal is another Raytheon engineering leader making a difference. In 2003, hoping to inspire her third-grade twin daughters and other young women to seek careers in engineering, she founded Math, Science and Technology Funfest — now Arizona STEM Adventures — which has exposed more than 68,000 students and educators to STEM opportunities. Sharon oversees 450 engineers at the RMS Software Engineering Center.

Raytheon’s Carla Sayan recently was named the National Most Promising Engineer of the Year by the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers. This senior information systems engineer has worked on critical initiatives and applications in next-generation information systems, and is an active volunteer and mentor.

We salute Laura, Sharon and Carla for all they do to encourage young women to become the engineers of the future, and we continue to work for a day when women have an equal number of seats at the engineering table.

Taylor W. Lawrence is president of Raytheon Missile Systems. Contact him at rmspr@raytheon.com