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Focus on Leadership:
Women in Engineering

Five Questions with Cindy Hoover, Vice President and Chief Engineer for Operations at Spirit AeroSystems and 2019-2020 President of the Society of Women Engineers.

As a leader of a national group dedicated to women in engineering, what would you say is the “state of women” in engineering today?

Twenty percent of engineering college graduates are women, the majority of whom opt for biomedical or environmental careers. Only 15 percent of engineers in the aerospace manufacturing sector are women. In aerospace, we need the skills female engineers bring. To attract and retain female employees, we need inclusive environments, robust benefits, and flexible work schedules. Achieving those goals will require partnerships between companies, schools, and professional societies working together to change and move the needle. I’m pleased that Spirit AeroSystems has two women on our executive leadership team, which demonstrates the importance of women as leaders in our company.

Why should women choose engineering as a career path?

Engineering is a way to make the world a better place. Women often want to make a difference in the lives of others, so those of us involved in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) want young girls to know engineering is a great way to do that. We encourage them to think about how they want to make the world a better place — who will be the ones to create new bridges, new medical breakthroughs? We’re trying to find ways to speak to kids in elementary through middle school to get them engaged and excited.

How did you become involved in the Society for Women Engineers?

I became involved with SWE during my sophomore year at Wichita State University, where I studied and received a degree in electrical engineering. Only four women were in my graduating class. After graduation I continued to be a member and 30 years later, I’m still involved.

How did the Society of Women Engineers contribute to your career and why might it be important for others?

I encourage women to join professional organizations because, for many, these volunteer groups offer opportunities to lead, which may not always be as readily available in your day-to-day job. So, first, SWE gave me the chance to hold leadership positions. Working with volunteers is a great way to learn leadership skills that can be applied in the workforce.

Secondly, I received access to many professional development tools. SWE provides access to an advanced learning center with webinars, TED Talks, online tools, and continuing education.

Finally, I enjoy networking and finding other people who are like me, who have the same kind of problems and issues. I encourage women to find sponsors. Mentors are great because they will listen and help you solve challenges. But a sponsor will advocate for you and help move your career forward. Women tend not to have sponsors as often as men. So, I encourage women to find a female, or male, leader in their company or industry who would be willing to serve as a sponsor.

“Leadership should be about bringing out the best in the people who work for you, building a team that is cohesive and functional, and doing things better together than you would apart. It’s up to the leader to set that focus.”
Cindy Hoover, Spirit AeroSystems’ Vice President and Chief Engineer for Operations

What is your leadership focus for the Society of Women Engineers this year?

My theme for the year is, “We Live, We Learn, We Lead.” It’s a reflection of my life and how I've risen to executive positions in both my career and volunteer commitments. It also offers a chance to talk about work-life balance. We’re digitally connected all the time and never away from work, so it becomes even more important to find your own sense of balance, so you don't burn out. As a leader, I want to provide a good example for that. I create success on my own terms. I work long days, but don’t hesitate to enjoy weekends and vacations. I think it’s important to set an example that a good work-life balance is critical. I like to show that you can have a family, a life, and be a leader.

Cindy Hoover is Vice President and Chief Engineer for Operations at Spirit AeroSystems providing engineering and technical support services to all of operations across Spirit’s locations in the U.S. and abroad. Hoover previously held vice president positions at Spirit for the Boeing Twin Aisle Programs, the 777X Program, and the 737 MAX Program, where she oversaw the development, execution, and integration of the products into existing operations and delivery to the customer. Ms. Hoover has more than 28 years of industry experience in engineering, project and program management, Six Sigma, and a variety of operations management roles. She has also served on numerous boards, including her current role as Vice Chairman at WSU Tech.

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