By Alan Murray and David Meyer
September 24, 2018

Good morning.

It’s been a tough year for women leading Fortune 500 companies. Their ranks fell from 32 to 24—fewer than 5% of the total. That’s inexcusably low, and a sign that American business still has a long way to go in making best use of its top talent.

Yet one sector is defying this trend: the defense industry. Four of the five top U.S. defense companies (if you count Boeing’s defense business separately) are now headed by female CEOs. That’s why Raytheon CEO Tom Kennedy these days is referred to as “the last man standing.”

Top gun in that group of weapon-making women is Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson, who is number one on this year’s Fortune Most Powerful Women list, and graces the cover of the October issue of Fortune magazine. In an age of rising geopolitical tension, Hewson’s Lockheed has scored billions of dollars in new contracts this year, has become leader in the race to develop high-tech hypersonic weapons, and has watched its market cap flirt with the $100 billion range.

Other defense CEOs on the list:

  • General Dynamics’ Phebe Novakovic (#8)
  • Northrop Grumman’s Kathy Warden, who takes over the CEO job at the end of the year (#22)
  • Leanne Caret, who is CEO of Boeing’s defense, space and security division (#23)

Why has defense turned out to be a pacesetter for female leaders? In her story on the trend, Fortune’s Jen Wieczner notes the defense industry has to work closely with both the military and the government, which both have made significant strides promoting women in recent years.

You can meet the powerful women of Fortune who compiled this year’s list here, and learn something about their methodology here.

More news below.

Alan Murray


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