2021 saw several incidents of sexual misconduct, abuse and harassment in the space sector, some publicly, many not so much. Space professionals Caleigh MacPherson, Victoria Varone and Heather Morehouse saw a need for change and support, so the Astro Advocates & Allies Facebook page came to life.

When planning an event on this topic, it was obvious to invite them as our specialist speakers.

The Elephant in the Room Webinar

“The Elephant in the Room” webinar was meant as an opportunity for people to hear their story and find out what needs to be done to bring about the much needed change in our sector.

We organised this online webinar on 2 February 2022, with several dozen people attending. You can find the replay to the webinar below.

Community of survivors

What started as a small group on Facebook quickly grew into a large community of survivors and allies dedicated to making space a safe space for everyone involved in it.  All without actually advertising the group. “It was entirely word to mouth, really. People relaying the information along to other people. And then we were talking to one of our journalist friends. And he’s the one who wrote the Florida State article, where we finally felt it was okay to kind of publish the fact that we exist and start expanding a bit. But as always, first and foremost, you know, we keep our members safe. So it is a private group,” Caleigh explains.  

Making changes

Support is one part of the group, but it is also to work with agencies and organisations to bring about change.  They only started their group in Spring 2021, but they already approached NASA to include sexual harassment into their Code of Conduct across all NASA Press sites, as there are historically issues with misconduct and harassment. But words are not enough to change the status quo. Victoria correctly points out, that all of us can play a part in bringing about change. “The easiest thing you can do is to listen.”

Codes of Conduct

One of the key topics discussed in the webinar are the codes of conduct that space organisations use to support people that are victims from abuse, harassment or inappropriate behaviour related to their people and operations. Based on increased demands for a safer workplace, for example NASA recently reviewed and updated its anti-harassment policy, that was rolled out consistently to all NASA Centers.

NASA Anti-Harassment Policy and Procedures Brochure 2021 (source: NASA, click to download pdf)

This has been a topic of discussion within the Powering Space organisation too, leading us to publish our own statement around ensuring space workplaces are safe for anyone.

Webinar Replay

Please see the webinar replay here. You can also click the ‘Watch on YouTube’ link to watch it from the Powering Space YouTube channel.

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