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Jul 2, 2020

Boeing's top spokesperson resigns over 1987 view on women in combat

Paul Harris discusses Boeing

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Boeing Co.’s top spokesman, Niel Golightly, resigned after an employee complaint over an article he wrote in 1987 questioning whether women should serve in combat.

“My article was a 29-year-old Cold War Navy pilot’s misguided contribution to a debate that was live at the time,” Golightly said in a statement released by Boeing. “My argument was embarrassingly wrong and offensive.”

Golightly’s departure after just six months at Boeing stirs new turmoil at a company reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and the grounding of the 737 Max, its best-selling jet, after two deadly crashes. Boeing had looked to Golightly to bring a steady hand as senior vice president of communications, praising his commitment to “safety, quality and integrity” when it appointed him.

“Niel and I discussed at length the article and its implications for his role as the company’s lead spokesman,” Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun said in the statement. “I greatly respect Niel for stepping down in the interest of the company.”

Calhoun affirmed Boeing’s “unrelenting commitment to diversity and inclusion in all its dimensions.”

‘Painful Reading’

In a letter to colleagues, Golightly said the 1987 article made an argument “questioning the wisdom of sending women into combat.” It makes for “painful reading,” he said.

“It reminds me of the sharp and embarrassing education the uninformed and unformed ‘me’ of that time received as soon as the piece appeared,” he said in the letter.

In the Boeing statement, he said he learned a hard lesson from the article.

“The dialogue that followed its publication 33 years ago quickly opened my eyes, indelibly changed my mind, and shaped the principles of fairness, inclusion, respect and diversity that have guided my professional life since,” he said.