PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Kari Wilkinson will be the first women president to serve as executive vice president of Huntington Ingalls Industries and president of HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding division
Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding is the state’s largest employer, meaning Wilkinson will lead over 11,000 employees of the company.
Richard Gagnon Jr. has worked at the company for over 38 years and said that he’s confident that Wilkinson will execute her role effectively.
“It seems like more and more women are getting to leadership roles. She was a director here. She was over the LPD program and she’s been here for a minute. She was a good up-and-comer for a long time, and it’s well deserved. We’re a company based on diversity, so this is a good thing,” Gagnon said.
Gagnon said that he’s noticing there are more women across the country that are taking roles with high responsibility.
He said that an increase in women’s leadership was bound to come, especially in male-dominated fields.
“It just shows you right there in your face how progressive we are as a country and as an industry. This shows that you can do anything with hard work and motivation. I don’t see why not. There ain’t nothing out here holding you back but yourself,” Gagnon said.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has a training program partnered with Ingalls Shipbuilding that teaches students who are interested in the field.
Recently, the community college said it has shipbuilding programs that gear specifically toward women so that more women could possibly achieve roles as Wilkinson has.
“It’s opening the doors for women to go into fields that they’ve traditionally not worked in and in male-dominated fields. It gives them the chance to come in on the ground level, to see how everything operates and work their way up through a company,” said Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Suzi Brown.
We’re told Wilkinson will replace the company’s current president, Brian Cuccias, once he retires on April 1.
Cuccias has been Ingalls President since 2014