WOCA 2023: Fireside Chat: Insights on Recruiting and Retaining Women of Color

Recruiting and retaining women of color is no longer an option but a critical aspect of bettering business and society.  

That was the message from Fair360 CEO Carolynn Johnson and Dantaya Williams, Chief Human Resources Officer at RTX (No. 36 on Fair360’s 2023 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) at the 6th annual Women of Color and Their Allies (WOCA) event. The event took place on September 21 with RTX as the host sponsor.  

Johnson began the fireside chat “Insights on Recruiting and Retaining Women of Color.” She stated that while 10% of women hold CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies, very few are women of color.  

Williams said addressing pipeline and talent availability challenges when recruiting women of color for leadership positions starts early. Engaging middle school and high school students should be the foundation of the solution.

“We’re an aerospace and defense company. A third of our workforce is high-tech engineers, a lot of our jobs require government clearance, but I can’t use that as an excuse,” Williams said. “So, what we do is we just start from the beginning. I go to middle schools; I get all these little girls excited about going to school for STEM education so that they can work for us.” 

Some students might not enter the workforce for another seven to 15 years, Williams said. But she added, “that’s what it takes” to build equity and inclusion in STEM.  

When Johnson asked how RTX engages leadership and holds them accountable for recruiting and retaining women of color, Williams said, “It all starts at the top.”  

RTX CEO Greg Hayes is committed to workplace fairness. He is “doubling down in this space because of everything that’s happening in the world,” Williams added. RTX’s commitment is also reflected in its bonus structure. 

“A portion of your bonus every single year is related to improving representation,” Williams said. “When you put those hooks in and mess with the pocketbook, people really get serious about trying to get that momentum going and they see and feel the commitment in a very real way.”  

Watch all our 2023 Women of Color and Their Allies event sessions here!