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Location: USA

Elizabeth Whitla

Raytheon Missiles & Defense

Executive Director, Contracts for the Strategic Missile Defense Business


Elizabeth Whitla is the Executive Director of Contracts for the Strategic Missile Defense business at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a business of Raytheon Technologies. She oversees the Contracts team that aligns to Missile Defense Agency programs to include the U.S. missile defense system and those of its global partners.

Prior to this role, Whitla served as Senior Director of Global Subcontracts for Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, where she led the acquisition team responsible for all subcontracts and strategic agreements serving air and missile defense, radars, command and control and naval system contracts.

Whitla has been a Contracts Director for three Raytheon business divisions - Integrated Defense Systems, Space and Airborne Systems, and Network Centric Systems – which followed a three year assignment as Staff Executive for a Raytheon business president.

Whitla brings together a background in international proposal pursuits focused on Europe, Asia and the Middle East, with 25 years of experience negotiating and overseeing major international and U.S. Government contracts/subcontracts with Department of Defense agencies, foreign governments, major primes, and suppliers in the defense and commercial sectors.

Whitla holds a Bachelor’s Degree with honors in Political Science from Bishop’s University in Quebec and an MBA from Queen’s University in Ontario.

What is your professional background and how did you become involved in the world of commerce and contracting? 

My career in contracting began in Canada working for Hughes Aircraft (later acquired by Raytheon). Hired to write user manuals, the Contracts organization intrigued me. It seemed like the perfect job, the bridge across our multi-functional organization. Accepting an entry level position, I spent the next 10 years growing my international contracting experience on DCS contracts that took me across Europe and the U.K., China, Singapore and Indonesia, before transitioning to a leadership position in the U.S. in 2004. Selected for a development rotation working for a Raytheon business president, I learned business operations from the top down, and witnessed the effects of good and bad deal formation on the business. The experience made me a stronger leader, but I longed to return to contracting.  Over the next ten years, I served as Contracts Director in three Raytheon Divisions, before moving to a Senior Director role leading the Global Subcontracts team for all air and missile defense, radars, command and control and naval system contracts.  The Raytheon/UTC merger brought me back to Contracts for my most challenging role, leading the team overseeing Raytheon’s Missile Defense Agency programs, to include the U.S. missile defense system and those of its global partners.

What are two personal achievements and contributions through your career. 

There’s a silent epidemic affecting our workforce and it’s not COVID-19. One in six Americans working full/part-time report assisting with the care of an older or disabled family member and 64% of these caregivers are women. Many turn down projects/promotional opportunities, making challenging decisions to choose family over career. In 2019, Governor Baker’s Council to Address Aging in the State of Massachusetts sought a co-chair for its Caregiving Workforce Committee. I was challenged to bring a large employer perspective to the team. This experience and the recommendations made to the Commonwealth, continue to influence my leadership support of flexible work arrangements that champion these individuals.   

The silver lining to COVID-19 is that it forced technology and cultural acceptance for working remotely. Raytheon/UTC merged within weeks of COVID-19 and a significant challenge was transferring our culture virtually. Every level of my organization is connected by video. Our D&I ‘About Me’ Campaign goes deeper than work, celebrating our differences, sharing culture, discussing corporate values and reminding us that we’re here together. It keeps the virtual office door open – even from home. Post pandemic, ~60% of my team will continue to work remotely part-time and this focus will lay the foundation for future change.

Covid-19 has illustrated the critical importance of helping women to realise their professional aspirations - what role have you played or are you currently playing within your organization to support women in their roles?

Twenty years ago, I was working on my MBA when my male supervisor came into my office and said “I feel sorry for women like you Liz…the bloom is really off the rose”.  Throughout my career, I’ve encountered comments like this and those who are threatened by diversity, instead of advocates for it. We are at a tipping point of important diversity discussions in our country, and I am proud to have been part of my company’s journey. Awareness, a desire for change and women championing other women can progress a culture and force points on gender inequality. My leadership team, 50% of which are women, work on the philosophy that it’s not enough to ensure diverse candidate slates, it starts with the panel of interviewers to infuse real diversity into the process.  As a member of the Raytheon Women’s Network and Chair for the Raytheon Missile Defense Workforce Council, I collaborate on strategic initiatives that invest in our employees to create better engagement, expand the employee proposition to develop strategic roles, and highlight supportive programs, such as Women Unlimited, that celebrated 100 Raytheon graduates last year.