Networking to Promote Diversity, Inclusion, Innovation

By: Shandis Bemanian, Marketing and Communications Specialist, SSL, a Maxar Technologies Company

Posted on Oct 22, 2018

Earlier this month, following the Satellite Innovation Symposium, SSL hosted a women’s networking event at our headquarters in Palo Alto. The reception and panel discussion focused on diversity, inclusion, and innovation and was organized in partnership with Bay Area Women in Space and Aerospace members Hogan Lovells, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Akash Systems. It featured a discussion between aerospace company founders from diverse backgrounds and was moderated by Lisa Kuo from Thales InFlyt Connectivity Group.

The “Founders Panel” focused on what it takes to start a company, and brought attention to the need for further diversity within the industry. Panelists included Melanie Stricklan, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Slingshot Aerospace, Jane Poynter, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of World View Enterprises, Julie Baker, Co-Founder and Vice President of Operations at Ursa Space, and Felix Ejeckam, Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer at Akash Systems.

Image-from-iOS_181214_093625.jpg#asset:96

Panelists were asked by members of the audience to elaborate on instances in their careers where they experienced adversity and how they overcome these challenges. Although the answers varied, the one constant was centered on the need to actively work towards establishing teams with individuals of diverse backgrounds. As leaders of their respective companies, the panelists are responsible for creating environments that champion change— Ursa Space, for example, maintains a workforce that is split evenly between men and women.

Women remain significantly underrepresented within the STEM labor force, consisting of “only 29% of the science and engineering workforce,” according to the NGC Project. Although women have made strides in breaking through the glass ceiling, in the space industry it is still common to have an absence of women on executive leadership teams, as keynote speakers, and as participants at conferences. Kudos to Silvano Payne who included many women speakers at the Satellite Innovation Symposium, including a launch panel that featured five women and two men!

This was the second year in a row that SSL has hosted the Women’s Networking Reception and we intend to continue creating opportunities for dialogue surrounding the subject of inclusion. Outside of this event, SSL has an active Women’s Network that empowers women within the organization to achieve their professional goals, as well as a STEM Group that provides role models for aspiring students within underrepresented communities in the Bay Area.

Research has shown that diverse groups provide better performance than homogeneous groups and networking events like the one held earlier this month are one way to nurture diversity in the industry. If you are interested in more information on the Bay Area Women in Space and Aerospace group, contact: shandis.bemanian@sslmda.com.