March 28, 2023

Why Gender Diversity is Crucial for Success in the Space Industry

Melanie Stricklan, CEO & Cofounder, Slingshot Aerospace, reflects on diversity in the space industry during Women's History Month.

Through this amazing journey as one of only a few female CEOs in the space industry combined with my time leading and serving on teams in the United States Air Force, I have gained valuable insights into the vital role that diversity plays in driving innovation, creativity, and mission success.

The space industry is an exciting and rapidly evolving field. And while it has been the source of great inspiration and growth for many people, it is also an industry where the workforce has historically been mostly male - presenting a challenge for many women and members of other underrepresented groups seeking to break into the industry and contribute to our future in space.

At Slingshot, we are a team driven by a mission to elevate our customers’ abilities to monitor, simulate, and optimize their space systems. Our work represents a paradigm shift in the space industry as we strive to build solutions that guarantee uninterrupted access and usage of space, allowing our customers to optimize their mission outcomes - and we firmly believe that diversity is mission-critical. By bringing together individuals from different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, Slingshot continuously innovates solutions to the most complex problems on orbit. Our mission-driven approach is not solely focused on achieving success for our customers; it is also about transforming the space industry and making it more equitable, inclusive, and accessible for all.

While the industry has made progress in welcoming more women to its ranks, there is still much more work to be done. In the New Space sector, only 17% of C-level and senior positions (including founders, owners, and entrepreneurs) are held by women. Furthermore, companies founded solely by women receive less than 3% of all venture capital investments.

In April 2022, I publicly committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the space industry by signing the first-ever industry pledge on diversity: Space Workforce Pledge 2030. As a leader in this field, I believe it's my responsibility to set an example and provide opportunities for all. That's why I'm proud to say that our leadership team at Slingshot Aerospace is currently made up of 40% women. While this number isn't yet at 50%, we are committed to building a diverse team as we continue to grow. By embracing diversity and inclusivity, we can create a more vibrant and representative workforce that will drive innovation and progress.

In honor of Women's History Month, I want to take a moment to recognize and celebrate the incredible women who are powering Slingshot Aerospace. These brilliant women inspire me every day, and I'm proud to have them on our team.

We asked a handful of women at Slingshot to share advice on breaking into the industry. Below are their inspiring responses.

  • Charlie McGillis, SVP, Government Relations & Strategy
    “Follow your passion and don't let obstacles stop you; everyone's journey is different. Find mentors that fuel your passion and want to help you attain your dreams.”
  • Casey Mills, Research Scientist
    “You can do whatever you set your mind to as long as you decide it's worth doing, so find what you love and apply it in ways that matter to you.”
  • Carolina Grossman, Senior Director of Product, Global Sensor Network
    “Sometimes, being underestimated can be an asset.”
  • Clarice Reid, Senior Machine Learning Engineer
    “Pretend to have confidence in yourself even if you don't. Imposter syndrome is something that affects so many women in tech and oftentimes can feel difficult to overcome. Even the people who appear confident all of the time sometimes doubt their abilities. If you tell yourself enough times that you deserve to be where you are and continue to strive towards your goals, you will also continue to grow and ultimately gain confidence as a side effect. This determination will help you become the type of person that other people look up to.”
  • Jiun Hsu, Lead Enterprise Project Manager
    “The path to your true passion may not be a linear path. I myself graduated with an engineering degree and started in software development, then quality assurance, before finding that my skills are best fit for project management.”
  • Alison Flynn, Technical Project Manager
    “If you ever feel imposter syndrome, then be the best damn imposter that they've ever seen.”
  • Christina Agnew, Senior Director, Government Programs
    “When presented with an opportunity, take it. If you’re not presented with an opportunity but want to do something, create it. Too often, women and people alike, count themselves out before they’ve even shown up. Never do that.”

At Slingshot, we take pride in the work we do to solve one of the most complex problems that humanity has faced, and we remain dedicated to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusivity to ensure we achieve our goals and make space a portal of progress for generations to come. Looking towards the future, the space industry is poised for incredible growth, but to fully capture that potential, we, as an industry, need to take a smarter approach to talent. So I challenge all space companies to focus on wisely and effectively recruiting, retaining, and promoting women and underrepresented groups. By doing so, we can equip ourselves to meet the rising demand, and create more diverse and inclusive teams - from the scrum room to the board room and beyond!

So, let us dream big, work hard, and always remember to be humble and kind. Together, we can make history and build a better future for the space industry and humanity. Happy Women's History Month, and let's keep pushing for progress. Ad Astra!