Throughout the year Out & Equal aims to elevate diverse voices, stories, lived experiences, and perspectives—in this blog and across the work we do. In the lead-up to Out & Equal delivering its 2023 Southern States Forum: Pride in Who We Are event, hosted by corporate Partner Airbus in Mobile, Alabama, we sat down with Amanda Simpson, Vice President for Research and Technology at Airbus Americas, to learn more about the pioneer and role model and to gain their thoughts on misperceptions about the American South, their advice on leadership, and self-care.

“When we engage, we discover more similarities than we might have imagined.  We all have common goals to better ourselves and provide for and protect our families.”

Amanda Simpson soars…

…at work she is a senior-level operations executive with extensive experience leading programs in the areas of advanced technology, aerospace and defense, aviation, test and evaluation, energy, and national security. Simpson, an experienced flight instructor and test pilot with degrees in physics, engineering, and business administration, spent 30 years in the aerospace and defense industry. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated ability to undertake and tackle challenging assignments and deliver success with innovative and disruptive technology and processes.

…in the community, Simpson has long been an advocate for LGBTQ+ issues, serving on the boards of various equal rights organizations, including the National Center for Transgender Equality and Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. While working at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ, she was instrumental in expanding Raytheon’s workplace policies to add gender identity and expression to the company’s corporate employment policy.

…and in the history books when she became the first openly transgender presidential appointee, as senior technical advisor to the Bureau of Industry and Security. She was appointed by President Obama to the Bureau of Industry and Security at the U.S. Department of Commerce on December 31, 2009. [1] At the time of her appointment, she told ABC News, “I’m truly honored to have received this appointment and am eager and excited about this opportunity that is before me. And at the same time, as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds, and that this appointment opens future opportunities for many others.”[2]  President Biden has appointed over 200 openly LGBTQ+ people to positions within his Administration, including Admiral Rachel Levine, who was the first transgender appointee to be confirmed by the Senate.[3]

Today, Amanda serves as Vice President for Research and Technology for Airbus and is one of the highest ranking transgender corporate officers in the United States. Out & Equal recently sat down with Amanda to speak about Airbus’ sponsorship of the Out & Equal Southern States Forum in Mobile Alabama, June 15th, 2023 and what it means for corporations and their employees across the southern United States.

What do people get wrong about the South? 

There is a misconception that the Southern United States is made up of homogeneous group of people that are different from anywhere else in the US or the world. The truth is that while they all may sound similar to folks from outside the region, they are not a homogeneous group at all but are composed of as many different ideologies as anywhere else. They shouldn’t be labeled as Southerners and put in a box. They are individuals and many have similar values and ideals of people across the country. When we engage, we discover more similarities than we might have imagined. We have common goals to better ourselves and provide for and protect our families.  

What advice do you have for other corporate leaders?

Be leaders. Remember that your organization includes people who are individuals, who have families, and want to feel appreciated, wanted, and loved in their lives. And that extends to their workplace, and as leaders we need to make that a reality by constantly and consistently personally demonstrating it.    

What do you do to take care of yourself?  

Sometimes it means I need to set aside time to rest. But sometimes it means I need to engage with others to utilize the heat that builds up inside. I have learned to surround myself with people who love me, support me, and care for me enough to let me know when I should be doing one versus the other.  

[1] The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women, Amanda Simpson

[2] HuffPost, Amanda Simpson, Transgender Candidate, Appointed to Commerce Post, 3/18/2010

[3] Victory Institute, April 2021.