Edinburgh rocket company encourages girls to reach for the stars
Since Yuri Gagarin’s maiden trip into space 60 years ago, the aerospace industry has been largely dominated by men.
Men are, on average, paid £11,000 more than women. The mean and median salaries for women are £41,000 and £35,000 respectively. For men, they are £52,000 and £45,000. This gap widens with age and seniority.
Furthermore, it is estimated that women represent just 20 per cent of the space industry workforce, a figure which is comparable to that of 30 years ago.
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 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 per cent 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 per cent 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 who 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 lags behind many others for female representation. In the U, a recent study found 19 per cent of chief executives within aerospace and defence were women.
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 UK 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 (£2.5m) grant from the European Space Agency (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. Having invested 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.
As part of Skyrora’s celebration of World Space Week, from 4-10 October, which focused on the topical theme of Women In Space, the company has pledged to join the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs’ (UNOOSA) initiative Space4Women as a mentor.
Participation in this programme will allow the firm, alongside many other leading female figures, to share its expertise and knowledge to help nurture an inclusive environment where women of “all walks of life” can fulfill an equal and active role within the space sector.
Katie Miller is head of communications and engagement at Skyrora