Women make up only about one-third of employees at NASA despite major achievements in 2019, including the first all-female spacewalk, according to the NASA Equal Employment Opportunity Strategic Plan the agency published.
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Just 28% of senior executive leadership positions are women and only 16% of senior scientific employees are female.
This is not just a problem for NASA. In the aerospace industry as a whole, only 24% of employees are women, and there has been little improvement in recent years, according to a study done by Aviation Week.
“We haven’t moved very much in the last 30 years in overall diversity,” Mary Lynne Dittmar, the president and CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, told The Washington Post. “Aerospace is still heavily male and white, and we’re not moving very quickly.”
NASA announced its “honor awards” a few weeks ago for 42 people. Only two people honored were women, according to the Post.
Women in the industry say that there still is a strong culture of misogyny in many scientific fields and it can eventually push talented females out. The gender pay gap does not help.
“Frankly, those attitudes have gotten better but they haven’t completely gone away,” Ellen Stofan, the head of the National Air and Space Museum, told the Post. “To pretend they have does not help us understand why women get paid 80 cents on the dollar and are still only making up 16-30% of the workforce.”
NASA is not exempt from harassment among employees.
At NASA, there were 62 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints filed last year, 27 of which were on the basis of sex, according to agency statistics.
Despite the industry’s struggles, women had multiple achievements this year, including NASA’s first all-female spacewalk, Christina Koch approaching the record for the number of days aboard the International Space Station for a woman, and the agency’s plan to have a second mission to the moon by 2024, which will include both a man and a woman, the agency said.