Marillyn Hewson joined Lockheed Martin in 1983 and rose through the ranks to a number of executive positions before being elected to the company’s board of directors in 2012. Later that year, she was offered the role of CEO when the next-in-line was asked to resign after the board discovered he had a personal relationship with a subordinate.
She has brought a new vision to the company and made a number of bold moves, according to Forbes. In 2015, she dumped the lower profit commercial services while acquiring helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky for $9 billion. Hewson also expanded into overseas markets with aircraft sales in India and Southeast Asia. Since becoming CEO in 2013, the company’s market capitalization has more than doubled. In 2015, Hewson was named the 4th in the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and 20th in the Most Powerful Women in the World.
Meanwhile, Hewson told CNN that while she prefers to be known more for her leadership skills, she does realize it’s important to be a role model for women. She said that as a young girl she had “a lot of responsibility” and learned about business and money from her mother. She said she also never turned down a promotion and advanced through a number of roles, always acquiring new experience along the way. Although she struggled with self doubt early in her career, continually moving out of her “comfort zone” helped her become more confident.
“I had 20 different leadership positions in this company, so with that breadth of experience I developed, I think that is what prepared me to be CEO,” Hewson told CNN.
Hewson said that, as CEO, she derives a lot of energy from walking the facilities and engaging with employees and their families. Hewson told Fortune that she relies heavily on her entire executive leadership team to gather diverse perspectives, unique insights and trusted counsel. She said she encourages an environment that fosters “frank and thoughtful discussion and company-wide collaboration.”
At the World Assembly for Women in Tokyo in 2015, Hewson said that while women have been underrepresented in the aerospace and defense workplace, change is happening. She said 25% of Lockheed Martin’s employees are women, including 22% in leadership roles and a third of the board of directors. She said that when there is more diversity around the table, it can inspire more innovation and better breakthroughs because different backgrounds offer new perspectives.
“I think we need more young girls in science, technology, engineering and math… Be a role model, show young girls that they have an opportunity to be just like you and grow up in a career,” she told CNN.