Laura McGill, Raytheon engineer

Laura McGill

Raytheon VP

Most young people want to change the world, and I was no exception. I had big dreams of achievement in the area of flight, and my parents nurtured this interest by spending breezy afternoons with me at airfields and air shows. Later, my passion and my parent’s support led me to college, where I studied aeronautics.

I knew I wanted to be an engineer because the way I saw it, engineers were the ones who were changing the world.

I was inspired by numerous examples of the contributions engineers make to our daily lives, and I continue to be awed by just how important the field of engineering is to our technology-based civilization.

Next week we celebrate the profession of engineering and the benefits it provides for society. When I look at our modern world, I can’t help but admire the magnificent technologies that have made our way of life possible.

In a very real sense, our modern civilization is a gift of engineering. In the same sense that the industrial revolution was a gift of the steam engine and other early technologies, engineers and engineering make our world possible.

Even with all the impact engineers have on our society, there is a looming shortage of young people educated in the area of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

More students, and particularly more girls, need to select pathways to STEM-related careers.

Raytheon Missile Systems is working toward a day when all groups have equal presence and voice at the problem-solving table through these 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 careers through projects, field trips and speakers.
  • Teachers in Industry: Raytheon annually offers summer employment to seven teachers working toward master’s degrees. Teachers get industry experience, bringing enthusiasm and knowledge back to the classroom.
  • Scout Day: Boy and Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona converge on Raytheon annually for an opportunity to work on hands-on projects.

• Raytheon Women in Engineering, Science and Technology: RWEST encourages female 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.

Raytheon sponsors other programs that promote STEM to all students. Among them is MathMovesU Day, an annual program in partnership with the University of Arizona that brings in 150 high school students to explore STEM opportunities.

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 helped them raise their grades.

The lack of young women and minorities, and, in fact, young people from all walks of life, getting involved in STEM will continue to be of concern for future generations.

Our students need more stimulating opportunities to explore math and science throughout their educational journey.

We need to nurture an environment that attracts the best and brightest minds into fields that will move innovation forward.

My message to girls today is simple: Consider a career in an engineering-related field. Who knows? One day you could change the world.

Laura McGill is vice president of engineering at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson.