Boeing’s Joan Robinson-Berry hopes to inspire minorities, women towards engineering careers

Womens History

How does a woman go from being told to sit at the back of a plane, to building them?

The Vice president of engineering, modifications and maintenance for “Boeing Global Services” says she was left out, locked out and looked down upon as she aspired to become a world-leading engineer. And it wasn’t easy for her to develop a formula for success.

She had a seemingly meteoric rise to the crest of her career, and it’s awe-inspiring when you consider all that Joan Robinson-Berry endured.

“Where I grew up and what I experienced my first 16 years in life was probably the worst situations that anybody could be,” Robinson-Berry said. “If it’s murder, if it’s gang violence. Everything that you see on TV, I experienced it.”

And it was on TV that she learned that her father, a Los Angeles police officer, had been stabbed to death. Robinson-Berry was only 18 years old. So, with her rise to success, it is easy to see that setbacks take a back seat when Robinson-Berry gets an idea in her head.

“One of the things that I remember was that I was extremely talented in math and science, language arts wasn’t my gift.” So, she pursued math and science with a vengeance, building her own business and striding across hurdles.

But, she says there were obstacles in her path, like Sexism: “I remember not having a restroom in the engineering building.”

Racism: “I remember some of the isolation in environments where there are not a lot of women of color.”

And discrimination: “Walking into a store sometimes when you are not dressed up and a person will clinch their bag you have experienced that kind of thing.”

But Robinson-Berry stayed on track, focusing on engineering, sharpening her skills and improving her workplace. “Diversity is about being invited to the party and inclusion is being able to dance”

Now, Robinson-Berry has made of career of making sure minorities and women are building Boeing planes.

“I call it now STEAM: Science, technology, engineering and art and math. We are going to be left behind if we don’t understand the opportunities in this area. I don’t do it by myself we have amazing leaders here and they come from all over South Carolina I think they come from 39 different counties, we have people from different countries bringing all of these amazing people.”

Robinson-Berry was named among women’s enterprise magazine’s top 100 leaders in corporate supplier diversity last year and one of the most powerful women in business by Black Enterprise.

She served as VP and general manager of Boeing South Carolina before moving to her current role at Global Services.

You can learn more about her by clicking here. 

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