Boeing has acrimoniously exited the Washington state trade group representing aerospace companies and is boycotting the organization’s annual suppliers conference scheduled for next month in Lynnwood.

People familiar with the dispute said Boeing’s withdrawal of financial sponsorship and participation in the conference is related to allegations in a rancorous lawsuit settled in June.

Filed by a former employee of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance, the suit alleged a culture of discrimination against women within the leadership of the trade group.

In an interview Friday, PNAA interim CEO Nikki Malcom firmly denied any negative attitudes toward women within the organization, noting that for nine years PNAA has run an annual “Women in Aerospace” conference to support women in the industry

“If I believed we had a toxic culture, I wouldn’t have stayed in the industry 22 years and I wouldn’t be trying to draw women into the industry, ” she said.

However, Malcom said she could not speak about the lawsuit and declined to comment on the breach with Boeing.


Likewise, Boeing declined to say why it has withdrawn support for PNAA. Boeing’s statement notes only the company is “supporting a number of other aerospace organizations in the Pacific Northwest, and we remain fully committed to this region’s aerospace community.”

PNAA represents about 250 companies in the region and has been promoting the growth of the region’s aerospace industry for two decades.

Its annual conference, which has grown over the years, draws hundreds of industry participants from around the region and the world, representing companies eager to do business in the Pacific Northwest’s aerospace cluster, which is anchored by Boeing.

Richard Aboulafia, longtime aviation analyst now with consulting firm Aerodynamic Advisory, has for many years given a keynote address at the annual conference. He said PNAA has “become arguably the very best aerospace cluster support organization in the world and a great forum for Boeing to interact with its suppliers.”

In past years, Boeing always sent a top executive or two to give presentations at the annual conference, as did Airbus and other major aerospace companies.

Aboulafia will be back next month at the Lynnwood Conference Center to give his overview of where the industry stands at this precarious moment. Alaska Airlines is a corporate sponsor. Airbus will present at the conference. Engine makers Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney will be there. But not Boeing.


“This is all a great shame,” Aboulafia said.

The lawsuit that ignited the tension was filed in August 2020 by Fiona McKay, who as deputy director of PNAA had announced each of the presenters from the stage at the PNAA conference the previous February. A month after that conference, she was fired.

In a lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court, she alleged she came up against blatant sexism from board members when she worked for PNAA.

In 2018, when she spoke to the PNAA board about that year’s “Women in Aerospace” conference, one board member called it a “sexist” event because it was for women, drawing laughter from others present.

When McKay complained that some considered PNAA a “good old boys club,” a board member told her women who said such things should “get a life,” and another that she should respond to such views by saying that “this organization was built on the shoulders of those men,” her lawyers said in the lawsuit.

In 2019, McKay was unhappy that for the annual PNAA Oktoberfest networking event, a board member brought for display a cardboard cutout of a “large-breasted woman,” without objection from then-CEO Brian Canfield.

McKay also alleges that a female marketing director was kept as a contractor on lower pay and unfairly denigrated by Canfield despite her good job performance, while a couple of men were hired full time. When McKay complained to Canfield that this was unfair, she claims he told her to “stay out of it.”


The lawsuit also alleges that Canfield, who used to work for Boeing, told McKay that “a drive to promote women at a company he used to work for discriminated against qualified men.”

The PNAA’s lawyers denied these claims in a court filing. Canfield, who abruptly resigned last fall, did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.

Parties reached a settlement in June.

McKay, via email, said she is prevented from speaking about her case by a nondisclosure agreement that was part of the settlement, and that she’s “working to move on from this period of my life.”

Melanie Jordan, who led PNAA as executive director and then CEO for seven years before Canfield took over, said she also could not speak about the lawsuit because of a nondisclosure agreement. She said the organization during her tenure was “very supportive of women.”

“I was fully supported by my board and by others,” Jordan said. “Women played a prominent role within the organization.”

Current interim CEO Malcolm, after consulting with several PNAA board members, echoed that assessment but reiterated that she would say nothing about the lawsuit or what has happened between PNAA and Boeing.

“We’re focusing on the future,” she said.