Diversity – a cornerstone of our SGAC activities

by Harriet Brettle, Arnau Pons, Mehak Sarang, Natalia Lemarquis, and Sahba El-Shawa

SGAC is led by young aspiring space enthusiasts, students and young professionals under 35 years old from different backgrounds starting their career in space. Our goal is to help solidify their voice and present their ideas to leading space institutions such as United Nations, space agencies, leaders in the industry and academia.

A message from the SGAC Leadership

Diversity is a cornerstone of SGAC activities. Not only is it displayed in our network of 15,000 members and alumni, from more than 150 countries, but also in our global team, as well as through our events hosted around the world, which serve as the primary vehicle for our mission. We celebrate diversity at SGAC, and have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.

As a result of SGAC’s global membership base and diversity initiatives, the organisation is able to tackle important and often sensitive topics in the industry, drawing on member’s experiences, background and interests. However, we acknowledge that SGAC as an organisation can always do better and so can the space industry as a whole:

  • Embracing diversity is a core principle of SGAC. We must work to ensure that this is an integral part of the organisation and practiced at all levels of the organisation.
  • We must recognise the inherent focus of space activities in the US and Europe, and continuously seek to connect the global space community, recognising the voices and value of the next generation from across the world.
  • We must do more for members without the means of opportunity to travel to SGAC events. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, SGAC has run more than 40 webinars and our first SGAC Online Congress (SpaceGen United), that enabled our members from across the world to shape and build their professional career and network in the space field. We will leverage this experience going forward to ensure that SGAC members can actively participate in SGAC events virtually.
  • We need to empower our international members by providing training and support for SGAC team members, including national points of contact, across the world.
  • We also recognize that diversity challenges can start before the age of SGAC members (i.e. before 18 years of age, the minimum requirement for SGAC members). We seek ways to correct underlying inequalities such as providing educational opportunities for our members and partnering with other organizations to support younger age ranges.

We look forward to the recommendations proposed by the SGAC Action Team and other collaborators on these important diversity issues.

Arnau Pons and Harriet Brettle,
SGAC Chair and Co-Chair

SGAC and the Space4Women Network

The predicted growth for the space industry in the coming year offers the time of big opportunities. However, there is an ongoing discussion around making the space industry more inclusive for women and how can women develop within it. Women represent 22% of the total workforce in the space sector (on par as 30 year ago). Organisations such as the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA – which is the main supporting partner of SGAC) are taking actions to encourage women to work in the space industry.

UNOOSA recently established the Space4Women Network, which facilitates the development and gender equality within the space industry (answering the UN Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 5) by providing mentorship to women all over the world. In April this year, 38 mentors of various skill sets and backgrounds were selected from different regions to promote, inspire, and encourage other women. Amongst these 38 incredible women are two SGAC members – Ilaria Cinelli and Natalia Lemarquis. SGAC is strongly supporting women all over the world in gaining quality space education by participating in numerous collaborative projects.

Updates from the Diversity Action Team

In June, SGAC made a commitment to change, announcing the development of a Diversity Action Team (DAT), to better educate ourselves and our members on the topic of diversity and inclusion as well as to set in motion our aspirations for a diverse and inclusive space sector. Since then, we have coalesced an action team that has been working to generate ideas to improve our work at SGAC and the space community at large, taking into account the injustices and inequalities of the past and the present.

Many of us joined SGAC because we want to have a say in what the future of space exploration looks like. As the leaders of tomorrow, we must build an organization that not only embraces and embodies diversity and inclusion, but advocates for a changing world. How can we bolster the space exploration dreams of our members in countries without vast reserves of wealth required to fund spaceflight activities? Recognising the inequalities within the space community, how can our members bridge the gap to support and empower each other? How can we build our collective, peaceful future in space?

The various DAT sub teams are working to develop a course of action for SGAC. The current objectives of the group are to:

  • Establish guidelines to improve the inclusivity of SGAC across all areas of discrimiation, including gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, race, class, nationality, language, and religion.
  • Frame and cultivate SGAC as a grassroots and open organization – truly embodying an inclusive anti-racist organization.
  • Ensure the SGAC community strives to be diverse and representative of the global community in terms of geography, gender identity, ability, educational and socio-economic backgrounds, by actively recruiting and providing scholarships to underrepresented members of our community, working to ensure that space is truly the “province of all mankind” as stated in the Outer Space Treaty.
  • Establish processes to maintain accountability and transparency to SGAC membership for shortcomings in the organization and encourage/advocate other organizations within the space industry to do the same.
  • Educate ourselves and the space industry on the history of space exploration in the context of racism, sexism, and discriminatory practices – and how they affect our industry to this day.
  • Lead by example with diversity and inclusion efforts, working together with our sponsors and partners to encourage a more equitable space community.

While dreaming of a better future, we remain firmly grounded in the realities of today. We will commit ourselves to understanding how to improve our own organization, and be the change that we wish to see in the space sector. We will listen to and advocate for our members from underrepresented groups, and work actively to recruit a more diverse membership. Furthermore, we will use our position to advocate for change within the broader space industry and community.

Notably, two of the pillars of this new action team are transparency and accountability. On that note, we will find ways to continue to share our activities and goals, and welcome feedback from all SGAC members. We are constantly working on improvements and if there are any concerns or questions you would like to share, we welcome you to share your thoughts. Please send any comments, concerns or suggestions to Davide Petrillo ([email protected]) and Mehak Sarang ([email protected]).