How does one address gender inequality in the space industry?

If there’s any demographic that seems to dominate the space industry, it’s straight white males. But hopefully that is changing. Many organizations and individuals are actively promoting diversity in the STEM fields. One such organization is the Society of Women in Space Exploration, founded by Bianca Vasquez. We asked her why she started the organization and to comment on gender inequality in the industry.

What are your thoughts on gender inequality in the industry and why did you start the Society of Women in Space Exploration (SWISE)?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know there’s a social problem in STEM – it is mostly white- and male-dominated. The space exploration industry is a wonderful place – humans are naturally explorers! With the amazing technology we have developed over the decades, we have been able to explore beyond the imaginable. We continue to push these limits with brilliant minds working behind it all.

However, there is lack of diversity. A diverse workforce is very important when facing challenges and finding solutions. Having different types of people, with different ways of thinking, opens a world of possibilities and ways of approaching problems. If the space industry were a much more diverse and inclusive place for all types of people, we would be more powerful and accomplish much more.

I wanted to start an organization that promotes women, diversity, and inclusion in space – to retain those that are already on their way to pursuing these careers and to encourage others to join us. SWISE is something I wish existed when I first started college. I would have loved to have started out having a community of women with interests in pursuing space-related careers. The imposter syndrome and the doubts would have definitely lessened with that type of support system. When I realized I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, I saw the need to create an organization for women to come together, support each other, do outreach, network with the industry, and grow together – all while sharing the excitement of the past, present, and future of space exploration!

How does SWISE complement your other professional endeavors?

I want to work in the space industry, specifically with rockets or on interplanetary missions. I want to contribute to and be a part of this very exciting time for humanity. With SWISE, I have been able to connect our members with industry professionals, facility tours, and make new connections – both personally and professionally. It’s very rewarding and exciting to hear from people who are excited about SWISE, who are in a chapter, or who are simply following our growth and development.

Which woman in space exploration do you find particularly inspiring?

Mary Jackson. Jackson faced so many obstacles to become an engineer. Working for NASA in the 1950s, a very difficult time for women and especially black women, she had to navigate through meeting requirements that were out of her control, making it happen, and being the first to do so. She, and all the other women, were trailblazers. Mary Jackson was NASA’s first black female engineer. These incredible and resilient women paved the way for subsequent generations to be able to follow in their footsteps.