The number of women employed in the international space industry represents just 20 to 22 per cent of the workforce, according to figures released by the UN; roughly the same proportion as 30 years ago.
To highlight this and other issues surrounding the push for gender equality, Women in Space, has been chosen as the theme for this year’s World Space Week, which began on Monday.
World Space Week is an annual holiday observed from Oct. 4 to Oct.10 in over 95 nations throughout the world.
World Space Week is officially defined as “an international celebration of science and technology, and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition.
The goal of the 2021 theme is to bring more awareness to the issue of gender diversity and identify the obstacles that women are facing when entering space-related careers and contribute to discussions on ending disparities.
The UN also wants to show how women from different backgrounds and regions face different issues and challenges within the industry.
Gender inequality is a long-standing and widespread issue in education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, both in developed and developing countries.
Recent research shows that women are still visibly underrepresented as researchers in STEM fields in all regions, averaging just 28.8 per cent, globally.
Overall, the number of women in the aerospace industry have fluctuated at around 20 per cent for at least 30 years. Only 11 per cent of astronauts so far, have been women.
To address some of those issues, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) launched Space4Women, to promote women’s empowerment.
For Simonetta Di Pippo, UNOOSA’s Director, “equality is the pre-condition for a better future.”
“Space for women means strengthened awareness, capacity, and skills, empowering young women and girls globally and promoting gender equality,” she said.
Over 560 people have travelled to space, but less than 70 of them are women. Of the 225 spacewalks that have been taken, only 15 were by women.
Women CEOs also represent 19 per cent of the leaders in aerospace and defence, even though space tends to offer high earning jobs in a fast growing sector, providing women with more financial freedom and empowerment.
In the future, 90 per cent of all jobs will require STEM related skills and women must possess skills and education to be competitive in the future employment market, says UNOOSA.
According to the UN, to succeed in addressing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the world must ensure that the benefits of space reach women and girls and that women and girls play an active and equal role in space science, technology, innovation, and exploration.