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Space diversity initiative continues to grow with new leadership and K-12 focus on National Space Day

The ongoing effort to attract more women and people of color into the space industry has shared some early results and ushered in a new occasion to rally: National Space Day on May 3, when thousands of students Will learn that not only can they work in space stuff, but they really should start now.

Space Workforce 2030 is a joint effort between the Space Foundation and aerospace companies and essentially amounts to a commitment that they, and all 29 corporate partners to date, will transparently report on their workplace demographics, hiring and hiring , and working together to find ways to introduce a more diverse population into the notoriously homogeneous space industry.

The project now also has an executive director, Melanie Stricklan, who previously worked at Slingshot Space (and the Air Force) and now leads the organization full-time.

In a statement Monday, Strickland and colleagues from the Aerospace, Space Foundation and Airbus America laid out some of the key statistics they hope to improve: not just end points like a diverse workforce, Rather, it is an inclusive workforce pipeline that anyone interested in the industry can participate in. Can participate.

Strickland and others present a united front that this isn’t some superficial DEI thing — something the aerospace industry may face in the workforce in the coming years as one generation retires without another truly taking their place. crisis.

“When we think about our nation’s intellectual property and global leadership, it’s synonymous with leadership in space,” Strickland told me in an interview before the meeting. “We need the best workforce, and we’re looking to build the best talent base in the world. It’s not quota-driven; the best space workforce in the world comes from a meritocracy perspective.”

In other words, they strongly support the idea that diversity at the supply end of the labor funnel leads to a stronger workforce at the other end.

To do this, Space Workforce 2030 starts with the basics: collecting and understanding data to establish a baseline. They rely on Aerospace’s research and analysis capabilities to process incoming data from the dozens of companies participating in the program, standardize it, and generate results that can be reliably compared year-over-year. It must be said that this is an achievement in itself – these companies are not known for their openness and transparency. But as an Airbus representative noted, they see workforce attrition as a serious long-term threat that requires serious long-term solutions.

Initial numbers show modest growth and some troubling missteps — more or less what you’d expect from the organization’s first year of actual operations. From 2022 to 2023, the share of female technologists will increase from 18.5% to 19.4%, while the share of people of color in this category will increase from 32.7% to 34.1%. Internship applications increased tenfold!

On the other hand, the number of women actually interning in the industry remained flat, while the number of women transitioning from interns to full-time employees dropped significantly by 4.5%. You can read the rest of the key statistics in the report itself.

So the question is: why? Are these small gains meaningful and the result of the efforts of these companies? How to explain the decline in the number of female interns but the increase in applications?

There are no truly solid answers because the reality is that this data is just beginning to be collected and investigated. A big part of the commitment is providing those numbers so everyone can collaborate honestly and understand where improvements need to be made. Only when multiple companies and organizations share this data publicly can the organization say: Wait, this company has been steadily improving its intern conversion rate for several years—what are they doing right? This will hopefully provide other companies with actionable intelligence.

A big challenge in getting people into the field is letting people know it’s even an option, and Strickland and her colleagues are convinced that includes the K-12 segment, not just college students and job seekers. So they put together a National Space Day curriculum that includes videos, teacher information, and a bunch of other materials designed to show kids of all ages and backgrounds that, yes, they can build satellites, rockets, lunar landers, and even Possibly into space themselves.

It’s May 3rd, and they enlisted the help of former TechCrunch collaborator Emily Calandrelli (who’s awesome) to create and promote content for the occasion. Strickland told me thousands of teachers have already signed up and they expect to see a surge in participation next month.

Surprisingly, it took Congress long enough to even take action and introduce a resolution to commemorate National Space Day. Hopefully they can agree that this is not something that should be undermined by partisan bickering.

Space Workforce 2030 leaders and partners have emphasized that this is a long-term effort that is just getting started, so there is a focus on kids who won’t be eligible for internships for a decade or more. It also means they haven’t done much to improve the results and add more data.

“One of the things I want to do is expand into government organizations as well as nonprofit affiliates. They have different touchpoints to reach people who don’t understand that they might have a future in a STEM-related career,” Strickland told me of. She mentioned the Office of Management and Budget (which has a lot of data), NOAA and the EPA (which has a lot of interesting work), as well as several other agencies they are negotiating with or want to engage with.

It’s great to see people waking up to the talent crisis we may be facing in space and adjacent industries, and being willing to admit there’s still a lot of work to be done. You can learn more about Space Workforce 2030 efforts here.

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