Is the Defense Industry Becoming a Girls' Club?

Perhaps no industry has been as male dominated as the defense industry. Now, two major contractors, including the largest defense company in the world, will soon be led by women.

Is the Defense Industry Becoming a Girls' Club?
Source: Lockheed Martin

Marillyn Hewson has been named CEO of Lockheed Martin beginning Jan. 1.

Chairman and current CEO Bob Stevens said the board chose Hewson after the man set to take the job, Chris Kubasik, was fired last week for having a "lengthy, close personal relationship" with a subordinate. Stevens said an employee came forward with the allegation against Kubasik in late October. The company did a three-day internal investigation and then hired an outside firm to confirm he had violated the company's ethics standards.

"We here live and work by a list of values," Stevens told analysts on a call Monday morning. "They are not negotiable."

That led to the choice of Hewson, who was already set to become president and COO.

"Marillyn Hewson is ready now to be the chief executive officer of this company," said Stevens.

He pointed to Hewson's track record over 29 years and 19 assignments, including leading Lockheed Martin's largest division, electronics division.

"She has consistently grown revenue, she has consistently grown margins," he said.

(Read More: Biggest Companies Run by Women.)

Hewson introduced herself to analysts on the call, saying her first priority is the F-35 program, the most expensive defense program ever.

Despite a looming "fiscal cliff," when tax increases and spending cuts take effect at the end of the year, "we won't miss a beat on the F-35," she said. "That will be a challenge and a priority for me personally for years to come."

The incoming CEO starts her new job on the very day sequestration could begin to cut a half trillion dollars in defense. But she's not the only woman taking the corner office faced with a new era of shrinking defense budgets.

Here are some others:

Phebe Novakovic, currently president and COO of General Dynamics, will take over as CEO on Jan. 1.

Joanne Maguire is executive vice president of Lockheed Martin's Space Systems.

Linda Gooden is EVP of Lockheed Martin's Information Systems and Global Solutions.

Gloria Flach, currently corporate vice president and president of Enterprise Shared Services at Northrop Grumman, will move to a larger division, becoming president of Electronic Systems, also on Jan. 1.

Unlike other well-known female CEOs who have come in from the outside, most of these women worked their way up from inside the defense industry.

"I think people are here because they are really focused on doing something larger than themselves," Hewson told analysts. "That's what we do—that patriotism, that purpose, that being involved with a company where they can be working on some of the most incredible activities and some of the most important work in the world."

—By CNBC's Jane Wells