Women in space: Enhancing capability through diversity

  • Published
  • By Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

As Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center commander, sat with six of his most senior space program managers during a media panel at the 35th Space Symposium, April 11, he noted how similar they were in age, race and gender and expressed his desire to have more diverse representation amongst space professionals. Thompson isn’t the only one who sees the value of diversity in space-related jobs.

The symposium featured its third Women’s Global Gathering in Colorado Springs, Colorado that included Brig. Gen. Deanna Burt, Air Force Space Command director of operations and communications, Ms. Krista Paquin, former NASA deputy associate administrator and Dr. Michelle Parker, vice president and chief engineer for space and launch at Boeing Defense Space and Security.

This annual event brings together women across multiple military and commercial space organizations to share personal experiences and to inspire future generations of women in the workplace.

Burt, who is one of only three (soon to be four) female general officers in AFSPC, candidly spoke during the event about her struggles and successes navigating a career in which she was frequently the only woman in the room. She challenged the audience to create a ‘good ole girl’ network as a support system for each other.

Rather than feel like there is only room for one woman at the table, Burt said, “It’s important that we find one another, celebrate each other and know that all of us can be successful."

When asked by an audience member what advice she would give herself at 20 years old, Burt said, “I would tell myself to stay authentic to who I am, make bold choices and keep driving. I have learned, as a leader, it is impossible to please everyone. You’ll never make a decision if you are so concerned of what other people think of you.”

While Burt highlighted the unique aspects women bring to the workplace, she also emphasized the importance of promoting all avenues of diversity.

“It is easy to surround yourself with like-minded people,” Burt said. “But leaders must intentionally seek out different opinions than our own and encourage people to share their ideas. I’m amazed of what I learn when I get outside of my comfort zone and engage with people who don’t necessarily look like me.”