USA

Boeing communications boss Niel Golightly resigns over sexist article

Boeing communications boss Niel Golightly has resigned over a sexist article he wrote three decades ago opposing women’s service in the military.

His exit leaves the embattled planemaker searching for a new top spokesman as it works to get its troubled 737 MAX jet flying again.

Golightly stepped down Thursday as Boeing’s senior vice president of communications following an employee complaint about the 1987 article, which he called “embarrassingly wrong and offensive.”

“At issue is not whether women can fire M-60s, dogfight MiGs, or drive tanks,” Golightly, then a US Navy lieutenant, wrote in a US Naval Institute magazine. “Introducing women into combat would destroy the exclusively male intangibles of war fighting and the feminine images of what men fight for — peace, home, family.”

Golightly, who had only been with Boeing about six months, said he decided to resign for the company’s sake even though the article does not reflect his current views.

“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. “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.”

Boeing said it disagreed with the content of Golightly’s article and that it has started a search for his successor. Greg Smith, Boeing’s chief financial officer and executive vice president of enterprise operations, will oversee communications in the meantime, the company said.

Boeing President and CEO David Calhoun talked with Golightly about the article and its implications for his role as the company’s top spokesman, Calhoun said. He added that Boeing has an “unrelenting commitment to diversity and inclusion in all its dimensions.”

“I greatly respect Niel for stepping down in the interest of the company,” Calhoun said in a statement.

Golightly came to Boeing in January at a tumultuous time for the Chicago-based planemaker. That was the same month Calhoun took over for Dennis Muilenburg, whom Boeing ousted in December amid a backlash over the 737 MAX crisis. The jet was grounded in March 2019 following two crashes that killed 346 people.

Boeing — which the Navy awarded $3.1 billion in contracts in May — ran a series of test flights this week in its push for regulators to let the 737 MAX return to service. The Federal Aviation Administration has said it still has several key tasks to complete before the jet can be certified.

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