By Katie Miller, Head of Communications and Outreach at Skyrora
SINCE Yuri Gagarin’s maiden trip into space 60 years ago the aerospace industry has been largely dominated by men. Men are, on average are paid £11k more than women. The mean and median salaries for women are £41k and £35k respectively. For men, they are £52k and £45k. This gap widens with age and seniority1.
Furthermore, It is estimated that women represent just 20% of the space industry workforce, a figure which is comparable to that of 30 years ago2.
With many jobs within the sector centred on science, engineering or maths, there is very much a perception that work in space is exclusively for those specialising in these fields. Furthermore, the prospect of working for the likes of NASA or the European Space Agency is seen as being to be reserved for those for whom a career – to play on the pun – is really rocket science.
While it’s recognised there is a shortage of female representation in STEM jobs – with an estimation of just 28% of the workforce being made up of women – opportunities to get a slice of the space sector cake have risen over the years through a number of private space and rocket companies.
Much like any industry there is a need for a variety of different roles for those working for a space firm. At Skyrora, 80% of our marketing and communications is made up of women. This team, while not involved in the assembly of rockets and satellites, is an integral cog of our overall operations.
Nevertheless, the aviation and aerospace industry as a whole needs to come together to close the gender gap in the sector, here at Skyrora we pledge to improve our opportunities so more women can help us to drive new ideas, innovations and beyond across all roles within the business.
We recognise that we need to do to more to bring a gender balance within our firm, and we are currently looking at initiatives which will help promote equality in this sector.
Last month I was on a women in space panel and it was interesting to hear the reaction around the room when you hear of a woman is an engineer and has worked on so many amazing opportunities.
The audible gasps and surprised looks shook me. There shouldn’t need to be a reaction in the first place. It is just one brilliant mind discussing her detailed research and engineering feats, she just so happens to be a woman.
It is a damning indictment that our exciting and ever-growing sector lacks behind many others for female representation. In the US a recent study found 19% of CEO’s within Areospace and Defence were women3.
As part of Skyrora’s celebration of World Space Week, which focuses on the topical theme of Women In Space, the company is pledging to join the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs’ (UNOOSA) initiative Space4Women as a mentor. Participation in this programme will allow us, alongside many other leading female figures, to share our expertise and knowledge to help nurture an inclusive environment where women of all walks of life can an equal and active role within the space sector.
The space sector is growing in the UK. In the summer, Westminster announced new legislation for the UK to develop its commercial spaceflight technologies through traditional rockets to high-altitude balloons and spaceplanes. And just last week the government introduced its National Space Strategy laying the foundations for our country to have a seat at the top table of this emerging sector.
Earlier this year Skyrora received a €3 million grant from ESA to develop our rocket technology for our orbital launches next year, and we hope the project will create more than 170 high-skilled jobs within the UK. And we are investing heavily in education, coupled with our STEM graduate placement scheme we are looking to raise the profile and possibilities for all to work within the space sector.
While we ourselves have a lot to accomplish to bridge the gender imbalance; we would encourage the UK space sector to join us in our efforts and aim to make the space sector a more inclusive industry for all.
Please Contact Katie Miller, [email protected], 07838326712 for further information.
2 – https://space4women.unoosa.org/about
Katie Miller is an experienced professional working in the UK space sector leading the communications, outreach, and press departments at Skyrora. Katie gained a degree in Physical Geography at the University of Edinburgh in 2018 and went on to join Skyrora shortly thereafter. After a short time at Skyrora, Katie began presenting the company in relation to its position within the UK space industry at a number of international conferences and events. Her interest’s lie predominantly within the UK space sector, more specifically the crucial role that the space industry has to play in Earth observation, remote sensing, and the protection and restoration of our planet’s ecosystems.
As part of her role at Skyrora, Katie is heavily involved with the promotion of the company’s ethos and corporate values and the promotion of environmental monitoring and protection through the use of satellites is a large part of this work. Furthermore, making space relevant to future generations is a corporate value at Skyrora; seeking to enhance the UK’s growth in the space sector and offer a rich environment for experts in the field, inspiring the next generation through outreach work and an extensive STEM programme. Katie is a STEM Ambassador with Skyrora, having participated in a number of high-profile youth engagement activities across the UK and working to build long-term connections with collaborative partners such as STEM the Violence, GUSEDS, and UKSEDS.