Only around one in five employees in the space industry is female

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To highlight these and other gender equality issues, Women in Space was chosen as the theme for this year’s World Space Week, which started on Monday.

The aim is to raise awareness of the issue of gender diversity and to highlight the hurdles for women when entering space occupations and to contribute to the discussion on ending disparities.

The UN also wants to show how women from different backgrounds and regions face different issues and challenges within the industry.

Gender equality

Gender inequality is a long-standing and widespread problem in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers, both in developed and developing countries.

The latest studies show that women in all regions are still visibly underrepresented as researchers in MINT areas with an average of only 28.8 percent worldwide.

Overall, the proportion of women in the aerospace industry has fluctuated at around 20 percent for at least 30 years. Only 11 percent of astronauts so far have been women.

To address some of these issues, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) created Space4Women to promote the empowerment of women.

‘Better future’

For Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of UNOOSA, “equality is the prerequisite for a better future”.

“Space for women means more awareness, capacities and skills, empowers young women and girls worldwide and promotes gender equality,” she says.

Over 560 people have traveled into space, but fewer than 70 of them are women. Of the 225 spacewalks, only 15 were performed by women.

Female CEOs also make up 19% of aerospace and defense executives, although space tends to offer high-income jobs in a fast-growing sector, giving women more financial freedom and self-determination.

In the future, 90% of all jobs will require STEM-related skills, and women will need skills and education to be competitive in the future job market, says UNOOSA.

According to the UN, to successfully achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the world must ensure that the benefits of space reach women and girls and that women and girls play an active and equal role in space science, technology, innovation and research.

New frontiers

On October 4, 1957, the launch of the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, paved the way for space exploration.

Since the beginning of the space age, the UN has recognized that space represents a new frontier for all of humanity.

In 1958 the General Assembly passed its first resolution on space, resolution 1348 (XIII), entitled “The Question of the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space”.

Almost a decade later, on October 10, 1967, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, came into force.

Space science and technology and its applications are increasingly being used to support a wide range of UN activities with at least 25 entities and the World Bank group routinely leveraging technological breakthroughs in development.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir work on their spacesuits before a spacewalk.

© NASA

NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir work on their spacesuits before a spacewalk.


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