Women in the Space Industry

July 20, 2020
a woman in the space industry instructing a male counterpart in the lab

According to Aviation Week, women make up 24% of the aerospace and defense industry, as opposed to 47% across all industries. Though in the minority, women have made great strides in recent years with their contributions to the space industry.

During the SATELLITE 2019 conference, eight women who are leaders in the aerospace industry provided insight in empowering women and shared hurdles they have overcome, reported Marisa Torrieri.

One of the speakers, Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch, is Senior Vice President (SVP) of government policy and strategy at Inmarsat Government. Inmarsat produces mobile satellite communication services and managed network services and have been working with the federal government since 1979.

Cowen-Hirsh has been in the aerospace industry for over 25 years and is a rated experimental flight test engineer and became the first female civilian Mission Commander for the Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA) mission.

During the conference, Cowen-Hirsch shared, “When I started in college, in electrical engineering, women made up 3 percent.” She went so far as to leave her first name off of her resume when applying to jobs. “People were surprised when I went for interviews and a woman walked in.”

Inmarsat Government also has a woman as the president and CEO. Susan P. Miller holds a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. Miller has led initiatives in satellite communications in both the commercial and government sector for over 20 years.

Ball Aerospace also has several women in leadership positions. Ball provides both spacecraft and payload development, including small to large highly customizable satellites.

Debra Facktor, former Ball Aerospace Strategic Operations Vice President and General Manager shared during the conference that she had a difficult time in the early 90s interacting with Russian scientists because of her gender. It wasn’t until she demonstrated her engineering prowess that they began to listen.

“When you know math and science, whether you’re young or old or a woman or not, you have another language to speak to bridge the barriers,” shared Facktor. Facktor, with both master’s and bachelor’s in aerospace engineering, left Ball in March 2020 to become head of U.S. Space Systems for Airbus U.S. Space & Defense, Inc.

Ball Aerospace also recently selected Diedre M. Walsh to serve as vice president of Washington Operations, focusing on government relation strategies to position Ball as a trusted mission partner.

Even the SATELLITE conference has seen the rising impact of women in the space industry.

“As Via Satellite Executive Editor Jeffrey Hill noted, in 2009 fewer than a dozen women spoke at the SATELLITE Show,” shared Torrieri. “Today, in 2019, it’s hard to find a session without at least one female speaker, moderator, or industry thought-leader present.”

Want to learn more about astronautical engineering? Capitol Tech offers a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and master’s and doctoral degrees in Aviation. Undergraduate students pursuing astronautical engineering have an opportunity to learn more about satellite technology in courses such as Satellite Communications. This course provides an analysis of satellite communications systems including communications subsystems, telemetry, tracking and monitoring, data handling, satellite link design, propagation effects, modulation techniques and performance and error control.

Contact admissions@captechu.eduto learn more.