Spaceport chief says it’s hard to be a successful woman in the space industry as some people shut her out of conversations

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, stands in front of Cosmic Girl, the modified Boeing 747.Hugh Hastings/Getty Images

  • Melissa Thorpe, a Spaceport boss, spoke about the criticism she receives as a woman in the space industry.

  • She said people excluded her from discussions and sometimes avoided asking her opinion.

  • The space industry is dominated by men, but Thorpe said he’s wondering how things are going.

Working in the space industry is not an easy business. It seems that it is even more difficult if you are a woman.

Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall in southern England, spoke to Insider about reaching the top of the industry.

Her successes led her to oversee Richard Branson’s “Start Me Up” satellite mission with the launch of his company Virgin Orbit. It was to be the first orbital space mission launched by the UK but unfortunately it failed due to a technical anomaly.

Thorpe said she didn’t get into the space industry in the traditional way. Studying STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is a common path, but she instead studied economics in London. She then moved into business development and later became an investment advisor in Cornwall. From there, she got involved in the spaceport and she finally took the helm two years ago.

Thorpe said he loves his job, but it hasn’t come without its struggles. “I don’t look like your average spaceport manager,” he said.

Throughout her career, she’s been shut out of conversations and hasn’t asked for opinions on things as much as others, Thorpe said. Additionally, she said she has experienced online backlash from trolls.

“I’ve also been questioned as a mother. It’s pretty bad,” she said.

One in 5 workers in the space industry is a woman

Thorpe’s seven-day job involves not only managing the spaceport, but also going to conferences, traveling and meeting clients in different time zones. He said it was important that family life fit his schedule, especially after the January 9 launch attempt.

“I think when I started I wanted to kind of conform to what’s already out there,” she said. “But I realize that actually the reason I’ve been successful is to be who I am and to bring a different way of thinking into things.”

Thorpe said women were “really good at doing it in rooms full of men” and the only way the space industry would improve was if it became more diverse.

Space is a male-dominated industry. The United Nations reported in October 2021 that about one in five workers in the space industry are women. It was about the same amount as it was 30 years ago, the report said.

“What I’m trying to do is start questioning the way things are done because, you know, it hasn’t gotten us to where we need to be yet,” Thorpe said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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