Diversity Without Inclusion: How the Space Sector Gets It Wrong (Project IDD Part 1)

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Diversity and inclusion.
It’s a scalding hot topic.

The business case for inclusion is concrete. A diverse workforce is beneficial for businesses through increased innovation, creativity, communication, and consumer influence. This case has been statistically proven time and time again. Inclusive organisations perform better and are more likely to achieve their goals. Diversity drives innovation, and you can’t argue with the statistics:

Companies of ethnic diversity at executive level are 33% more likely to outperform peers. Senior leadership teams that are at least 30% female see a 15% increase in profitability. Companies that hire and support talent with disabilities have a 20% higher revenue, 200% higher net income and 30% higher margins.

The issue of diversity across stem can be attributed to many sources, not least the existing phenomenon of an ever-increasing homogenous workforce.

Research suggests that potential candidates are attracted to companies depending on how they perceive themselves to fit into the organisation. Those who have aligned values with the workforce are likely to feel accepted within the wider team, creating a sense of belonging that leads to higher employee retention and job satisfaction. Those who do not feel this way will leave, resulting in the gradual homogeneity of the organisation.


Within the space sector, as in other STEM industries, those from more advantaged socio-economic backgrounds are over-represented.

The US STEM workforce is 89% white and 72% male. Only 1 in 5 identify as female in the space sector and only 2% have a disability.

With such a staggering white male monopoly, it’s no surprise people from other demographics are feeling alienated. It’s clear that in order to create a more diverse industry, we need to take a new approach to diversity and inclusion.

To us, the phrase ‘diversity and inclusion’ is back-to-front. Diversity isn’t achievable in any organisation without inclusivity – inclusion needs to come first. This is our philosophy. At EVONA, we first address inclusivity with the companies we work with. Only then will they be able to solve issues of diversity.

According to Forbes, the main driver for leaving an organisation, by a staggering 62%, is company culture. Another study showed that almost half of black employees have left their jobs because of issues with diversity.

We question what the driver of this is. Did this happen because of a lack of diverse employees at the company, or because those who were hired were left isolated and without a sense of belonging?

A global study named workplace belonging as the number one driver linked to engagement and wellbeing. This surpassed ability for career growth and trust in leadership. Of those that felt a sense of belonging 91% were engaged in their work, in comparison to 20% of those who felt no sense of belonging. Those with a higher sense of workplace belonging also showed a 167% increase in their employer promoter score (their willingness to recommend their company to others). They also received 18 times more promotions and double the raises.

The problem is that companies are focused solely on ‘diversity’ from a skewed perspective. They hire individuals based upon their ‘diversity criteria’, BUT they’re recruiting employees into a workforce where they’ll ultimately feel alienated. This isn’t going to solve the issue.

70% of senior executives would leave their company for one that values diversity But what does ‘value diversity’ mean? It doesn’t mean numbers. It doesn’t mean statistics. It means understanding employees’ needs and providing equity across the organisation. It means inclusion.


The phrase ‘diversity and inclusion’ has become hollow in parts of the industry. It’snot just about tokenism, scratching the surface of diversity and thinking the job’s done. If you create an inclusive work environment, that appeals to and not only attracts, but retains people from all walks of life, diversity will increase organically. It’s not a quick fix to hire ‘diverse candidates’ – you need to work out what will make them want to stay.

So where do you start? There are many methods employers can implement to drive equality and inclusion in the existing workplace – a great place to start is measuring your workplace diversity. This will identify areas of concern, highlighting where your efforts are needed most allowing you to make a plan. The next logical step is to look at your recruitment and selection processes.


Inclusive Recruitment and Selection Processes

Some of the main drivers of diversity and inclusivity issues are hidden within talent acquisition procedures. With no measures in place to prevent discrimination during the selection process, homogeneity breeds. While many will be quick to exclude themselves from this lot, it is argued to be a subconscious process. Research shows that:

“People who identify with their group have an emotional stake in its preservation and view those who differ will be viewed as a threat to the continuation of that group.”

This suggests that we are naturally inclined towards what we feel represents us. If this is truly an innate inclination, a lot of companies will need to tighten up their recruitment processes. 

Unbiased recruiting is where inclusion starts. It’s easy to sell an organisation, but not everyone knows how to embed inclusivity into their pitch. Many companies think they know how to recruit, but they’re often subconsciously introducing bias to the workforce. Without the right training and experience, you won’t find the right candidates. This takes time, and not everyone has the benefit of an internal HR department. You need a trained professional to get the job done right.

If you’ve read anything about diversity in the space sector, it’ll focus on visible diversity – gender disparities specifically. It’s an easy issue to address. So, let’s start on gender differences in the space sector.


EVONA Female Placement Case Study

Two of our principal recruiters have achieved a 50/50 gender split in their placements.

In a sector where only 1 in 5 identify as female, this is a significant achievement, standing as testament to our crew’s passion and expertise.

We caught up with Alice and Chloe to discuss their own recruitment strategies, how the companies they place with operate, and their own expert take on diversity in the space sector.

Alice - Principal Recruiter - EVONA


Have you noticed an increased number of organisations in the sector looking to hire more women?

Definitely! More organisations are realising the importance of an inclusive workforce and the value that can bring. Companies are seeing first hand how more diverse organisations can excel because of the new and varied ideas their teams can bring to the table. These diverse perspectives take businesses to new heights because it allows them to tackle issues in adaptive ways.”


What do female candidates look for in an organisation?

Representation and the possibility of progression are really important. Having women in leadership has a huge impact on this. Seeing people like themselves allows potential employees to visualise their career path through a prospective company, showing them that investing their time would be worthwhile and that they would be respected. We regularly speak to female candidates about the other women in a company, as well as women in senior positions and on boards to give real-life success stories. It’s a good idea to get women on the interview panel, or have a woman in a team at a similar level to have an informal chat with candidates.

Candidates will often check your website when considering a role, so pictures that capture your truly diverse and inclusive team at work can make an enormous difference.

Benefits packages also have a huge impact on the talent you attract. Among the many options out there, flexible working is very popular with women (and men) in my experience.

In a UK survey: 55% of women wanted more flexible working hours. 63% of those women said it would provide a better work-life balance. 54% wanted flexibility to reduce stress. 56% believed it would help with childcare responsibilities. 35% wanted it for higher job satisfaction.

Giving the option to start early or finish late to accommodate around other responsibilities is really valuable. If a woman has children, the option to work from home if their child is sick, or to work a four-day work week (incorporating the same hours as a five-day week), can be a deciding factor in them accepting your job offer. The same goes for women with any kind of personal responsibility. It’s an outdated mindset to think flexibility equals a lack of productivity. The option to be flexible around other commitments has actually been proven to boost morale and have a positive impact on work output. As long as they’re working their contracted hours, it pays to let employees decided on their own structure.

It’s important for women to believe a company truly values flexibility and understands its benefits, so you can’t just offer flexibility for the sake of it – you have to truly believe the value. Women are just as motivated and capable of making a valuable contribution as their male counterparts, and this understanding needs to be reflected throughout your entire organisation. Women look for a company with a strong vision, values and culture, so it’s important to communicate this from a recruitment perspective, but also to follow through with promises in order to retain women once they have joined.”


Have you heard first hand of the impact of increased female hires in the organisations you’ve worked with?

We regularly speak to female leaders and CEOs in the space sector who are really passionate about the ways diversity has benefitted their organisation. Diversity brings new ideas to the table, increasing innovation as well as profitability. It also impacts productivity and motivation because if women feel happy, heard and respected in the workplace, their enthusiasm and quality of work will increase. It definitely impacts future female hires as well – if you have women within your company, more women will want to join. Female candidates regularly ask me about other women and female leaders within businesses when considering a role.”


Chloe - Team Manager & Principal Recruiter, EVONA

How do you sell an organisation to a female candidate?

I really focus on company culture. Does the organisation have a supportive culture? Is the workforce diverse? Will womens’ ideas be heard? Will they be allowed flexibility, or will they be penalised for having a work-life balance? These are all important questions that I’m asked regularly by female candidates, so I outline these areas first when determining if a company is the right fit for them. If there’s something that isn’t currently being done by a business, we can work with them to see what can be improved to help attract and retain female talent.

Success stories of other women within the organisation are always a great selling point too. If a woman can see herself represented within a company, through other successful female employees, this can help them to visualise their own success and progression if they were to join the business.”


Is there a skew towards the kinds of companies you recruited into?

No, I wouldn’t say so. From my experience, there’s not one particular area of the space sector that tends to hire more women. All different sorts of organisations are realising the benefits of inclusivity and a diverse workforce. There aren’t any limits for a women in the space sector in terms of roles and what they can achieve in them. I’ve placed women into all areas of the industry including geospatial, space hardware, research and development, and everything in between.”


What does it take to ensure female hires are attracted to space organisations?

To attract and retain female talent, think carefully about your job adverts. Words like “analyse”, “leader”, “expert” and “competitive” have been found to be masculine-focused, while words such as “collaborative”, “adaptive” and “responsible” appeal to women more. It’s vital that any roles advertised appeal to a range of qualified applicants, so be mindful of what language you’re using to sell your company.

In the US benefits are huge, much more so than in the UK. Having a good paid time off offering to enable work-life balance is important. For the US market in particular, full medical, vision and dental cover for an employee, their spouse and dependents, without having to pay a huge premium, is always a huge selling point.

Maternity (and paternity!) packages are also important. A modern view of parenting can make a huge difference to the candidates you attract. Whoever decides to have a child, whoever decides to stay at home and whoever wants to go back to work, your benefits packages need to give them the option to shape their family in a way that suits them. I’ve seen both women and men turn down jobs because of a poor maternity or paternity package.

If a woman decides to have a child, make sure they’re supported in their return to work, whether that be with a workplace mentor or by easing them in on shorter hours while they adapt. Flexibility is still key here, so if a mother has to do the school run at 8:30, don’t have a rigid 9:00 start time.

Something I’ve seen make a big difference is giving women the option to work a role fully remotely, as opposed to asking them to relocate. If they’re rooted and settled somewhere, especially with a family or children in school, relocating could make a qualified female candidate turn down a role without a second thought.

Another common barrier for women is the motherhood gap – a gap in their CV from having children. This is a very negative reinforcement that is made by a lot of companies, and it’s definitely holding them back from hiring talented candidates.

Delayed paternity leave in support of mothers, to be used within a year of a child’s birth or adoption, is an increasingly popular benefit that I’ve come across. Childcare initiatives are also a great way to lighten the load of parenthood and attract women with children to your company.”


If space companies had the right tools, this 50/50 split could be mirrored across the entire sector.

Currently, you can actively pinpoint the organisations in the industry who are putting inclusion first, using it as a force to drive diversity. In 2022, there’s no excuse for the rest of the sector not to follow in these companies’ footsteps.

With help from the experts, diversity can be achieved through inclusion, one adaptive and open-minded organisation at a time. EVONA are committed driving this shift in the industry.

We’re not stopping here. We’re determined to push our message to ensure a bright future for the space sector. That’s why this is the first piece in our ongoing Inclusivity Drives Diversity (IDD) content series. In Project IDD, we’re exploring the true impact of inclusion in the space sector, as well as the challenges and barriers that prevent diversity from being achieved. With real-life case studies and input from our own crew of experts, as well as our strategic advisers and other space industry leaders, we’ll share crucial insights and personal experiences that could transform your organisation.



Learn from NewSpace leaders whose stance on inclusivity took their companies to the next level in Project IDD Part 2.