Townes-Whitley becomes SAIC's new leader

Toni Townes-Whitley, new CEO of SAIC, speaking at the Women in the World Summit in 2019.

Toni Townes-Whitley, new CEO of SAIC, speaking at the Women in the World Summit in 2019. JOHANNES EISELE / Contributo

Science Applications International Corp. is among the handful of the market's largest companies to install a new CEO over the past 12 months.

It has been a busy period of transitions in the CEO ranks at some of the largest companies in the market:

Now add Science Applications International Corp. to that list with Nazzic Keene being succeeded as CEO on Monday (today) by Toni Townes-Whitley.

The common thread among these changes is in how they were all planned. There were no emergency board meetings to remove the CEO.

Keene’s departure and her successor were announced in May. They have worked on the transition together since, and Keene is staying on as a special advisor until Feb. 2.

Keene’s career has been nothing short of extraordinary. She joined "Old SAIC" in 2012 and was one of the architects of the split that created Leidos and the current SAIC in the following year.

She served as the chief operating officer under "New SAIC's" first CEO Tony Moraco until he retired in 2019, after which Keene was elevated to the CEO role.

More than anyone, Keene has molded what we know of as SAIC today.

Now, Keene handed the reins over to someone who brings her own well-regarded leadership resume.

Townes-Whitley was a long-time executive at CGI Federal, serving as a senior vice president. She left CGI in 2015 to run Microsoft’s global public sector business.

Townes-Whitley is also a staunch advocate for inclusiveness and diversity in the tech world, particularly for women and African Americans.

With Townes-Whitley as the new CEO, SAIC is the largest company at No. 10 on the Washington Technology Top 100 with a Black executive leading the way.

Two companies ranked higher than SAIC are led by White women – Northrop Grumman at No. 4 and General Dynamics at No. 5 .

She is the only Black female CEO. Rene LaVigne of Iron Bow Technologies is the sole Black male CEO on the Top 100.

Townes-Whitley's new position at SAIC is also noteworthy when considering how few Black executives at any level are among the Top 100. Fifty-nine of the Top 100 have no Black executives.

Given her reputation, perhaps Townes-Whitley will start a trend that improves those numbers.

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