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2002 Speeches

Joyce Tucker

Vice President, Global Diversity

The Boeing Company

"The key to diversity: People, pipelines and partnerships"

Annual Conference Advancing Minorities' Interests In Engineering (AMIE)

Tuskegee University

September 05, 2002

President Benjamin Payton . . . Mr. Myron Hardiman . . . Dr. Allen Atkins . . . the AMIE board of directors . . . deans of HBCUs . . . AMIE members and friends

Thank you for inviting me here today.

I feel honored to be standing before such a distinguished group in such a hallowed location. Just the word "Tuskegee" has come to mean something very special in the evolution of civil rights.

It's synonymous with determination, courage, human value. Tuskegee University, along with those most famous Tuskegee Airmen, has rightfully earned its place in American history. And it is continuing to push the boundaries of creative and intellectual potential.

AMIE - Advancing Minorities' ' Interests in Engineering - is a coalition of engineering professionals from America's leading companies and ten Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We share a belief that science and technology - advanced by new generations of engineering graduates - is the key to the future of our increasingly global economy and society. Without your collective focus and energy - your power to make dreams come true - our individual efforts would be weakened and less effective.

I am truly among friends.

I think it was Henry Ford who once said that 90 percent of success is being prepared.

Getting ready for the future is the reason we are here today. We at Boeing have a vision. It's called Vision 2016 - so named because the year 2016 marks the centennial of the founding of the company.

Our vision is straightforward. It is our intent to have people working together as a global enterprise. The ultimate goal for Boeing, using that principle, is to achieve aerospace leadership. But bringing together all of our varied abilities, skills, backgrounds and origins to work together for a common objective extends far beyond the boundaries of our company. Achieving global diversity is a global concern.

How do we prepare for such an ambitious goal?

Our most urgent priority is to harness the best minds of those who are still children and motivate them to become the engineers and scientists who will guide us into the next frontiers of technology and science.

The first element of Boeing's vision is PEOPLE. Our chairman Phil Condit put it best when he said: "People are our competitive advantage." We can work for years on a leading-edge technology, he says, but a competitor can come along and duplicate that technology. However, competitors cannot duplicate people. People should, and do, occupy our minds every minute of every day.

No doubt about it, Boeing is a company that employs some of the best engineers and technologists in the country. But if we are to remain a technology leader, that pool of expertise needs to be replenished. Six-year-old children of today will be the engineers of tomorrow. And I might just say that many of them will be women since 70 percent of all students enrolling in black colleges are female.

The second part of our vision is establishing a source or a PIPELINE for the best and brightest. I'm proud to say that at Boeing we have programs in place not only to encourage youngsters to take up mathematics and science at an early age, but to reinforce that interest as they progress through high school and college. We have ongoing programs with schools in the 27 states and hundreds of communities where Boeing employees live and work. We spend close to $10 million a year on community and K-12 programs. Many of our engineers serve as mentors, helping our youngsters build scientific projects and experiments, even assisting them with mathematics homework.

But there's still more to be done. I can't get over how fascinated I am by the technical work that we do at Boeing, even though I am an attorney by profession, not a scientist. We must somehow find a way to transmit to our children the excitement we feel about scientific discovery.

That brings me to the other component of our vision - PARTNERSHIPS.

Becoming part of AMIE is clearly one of the best moves that Boeing ever made. Here in this room, we see a powerful cross-section of resources - leaders from academia, business and government. Together, working with HBCUs, we can give our children the helping hand they need to succeed -- access to a career in engineering or science.

We have had a fruitful ten-year partnership with this great Tuskegee institution, more specifically with the researchers at the Center for Advanced Materials. Confronted by a real-world head-scratcher relating to the bonding of fiber-resin composites, Boeing and Washington University set out to find the right place to properly test and evaluate the materials it had developed. They found it right here at Tuskegee. This collaboration is providing useful baseline information for our advanced Sonic Cruiser passenger aircraft program at Boeing. And, by the way, it has produced a master's degree graduate at Tuskegee, and will produce a doctorate degree graduate at Washington University.

At Tennessee State University, we worked with Professor Landon Onyebucke (prounounced: own-ya-becky) and several of his students to develop a breakthrough software program for airplane cockpit design. The technology enables us to design airplane cockpits that will comfortably accommodate flight crews of the future - many of them women, by the way.

This wasn't just a fun project. The technology has been used on the Space Shuttle. And the Wedgetail airborne early warning and control system and the Sonic Cruiser passenger plane will also benefit from this research. This project won one of Boeing's Special Invention Awards - a company recognition program that selects just a few inventions out of hundreds. But the most telling outcome came via this comment from one of the participating Nigerian students at the university. "We have the experience of professionals, while we're still students," he said. "That's priceless." Priceless indeed. If only we could multiply his experience a thousand fold, we would be on our way to achieving real DIVERSITY in our engineering workforce, the sum total of our PEOPLE/ PIPELINE/PARTNERSHIP collaboration.

There's no question that everybody here believes in diversity for good and practical reasons. What is in question is how quickly we are moving toward our goal.

For those of us who tend to put off today what can be done tomorrow, a vision in the far distance offers some solace. But if measured in terms of how long it takes to conceive, build and execute strategy, our deadline at Boeing - 2016 - is just around the corner.

We don't have much time to accomplish something that has eluded society in general for many years. That is, to establish a pool of available engineering and scientific talent that includes all people regardless of background and heritage.

Let's take a look at the national picture. While minority enrollment in all engineering schools is up by about 50 percent and enrollment by African Americans has risen by more than 40 percent in the past 15 years, black Americans still account for less than four percent of engineering professionals in this country. And while HBCUs award 30 percent of all bachelor's degrees earned by African Americans nationwide, they still constitute only three percent of America's 4,084 institutions of higher education.

It's obvious that we still have a long way to go. But I am heartened by what appears to be a new era of enlightenment in American industry. Diversity is becoming an essential part of an increasingly open, progressive and competitive marketplace. The recruitment and development of minorities seems to be assuming its rightful place as an entrepreneurial effort that makes both ethical and business sense. Diversity is a cornerstone of Boeing's vision, core competencies and values, and we strongly support the national commitment to hire and promote people from minority groups. Along the way, there will still be pockets of resistance. But in today's environment, those business people who do not join this effort of integration certainly risk being left behind.

It's fitting perhaps to look to the Tuskegee Airmen as our inspiration. They were initially denied the opportunity to risk their lives in service to their country. But they persisted and won. How much poorer would our national defense be, if the Tuskegee Airmen had not opened up the U.S. Air Force to all brave, talented and qualified candidates?

Let us not put our young people in the position of having to fight an institutionalized system to become heroes of their chosen fields.

Together, we can make their dreams - and our vision - come true.