“The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever” – Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. These words ring true for our global community today. With all of the tremendous advancements in science and technology that our world has witnessed, we have begun to consider a new frontier for exploration – outer space. Leaders at the United Nations, with the help of a diverse array of scientists and entrepreneurs (including IVLP alumni), have looked beyond the Earth’s stratosphere to consider how broader UN goals can be applied to space. Specifically, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, the principal UN agency for promoting the peaceful use and development of outer space, has begun to draft guidelines to govern responsible development of the world’s final frontier.

Considering how to peacefully use and develop outer space is no easy feat. Space is truly one of our world’s newest and most challenging policy domains to navigate. Diplo highlights a few main challenges in this area, including the growing number and types of actors involved in space, the growing prominence of space-based strategies in military affairs, and how to manage the delicate balance of power between actors that lead in space development. Beyond these questions of power, military might, and influence, there are more looming questions about how to ensure development of space occurs in an equitable and inclusive manner. Thus – how do we ensure that women, girls, and other underrepresented groups play an active role in space science, technology, innovation, and exploration? 

One International Organization has taken the lead in answering this question. The United Nations is working diligently to ensure the benefits of space exploration are equally available and accessible to women and girls. It was with this spirit that Space4Women was developed. Space4Women has a mission of ensuring that the women and girls are involved in this conversation about space science and technology. To that end, Space4Women has hosted several expert meetings and made gender equality in space development a key conversation amongst International Organizations. Importantly, Space4Women also developed a mentorship program to bring together multiple space industry leaders and sector professionals. Together, these mentors encourage women and girls to pursue STEM education, to raise awareness about career opportunities, and to speak to the importance of gender equality and empowerment in the space sector. They also share their expertise, knowledge, and experiences with women and girls aspiring to join the space tech industry.

One of the individuals involved in the Space4Women network mentorship program is Global Ties KC’s own IVLP alumni, Vered Cohen Barzilay. Vered is the Founder and Director of Out of the Box – Science Accelerator, an American-Israeli program seeking to educate youth about space entrepreneurship. When speaking with Global Ties KC about her work, Vered highlighted the importance of having female role models in the space tech industry. When the industry has female role models, more women and girls have a figure to look up to, and thus they become more likely to join the field. This is just one reason why projects like Space4Women are so valuable.

What’s more, Vered also spoke to the broader need to have inclusivity and representation at the forefront of space development. She notes how the space industry is growing rapidly; Morgan Stanley currently estimates that the global space industry could generate revenue of more than $1 trillion by 2040. In light of this, Vered says “we must open the door for women to allow them to become leading space entrepreneurs. As of today, there are none, at least not among the central players in this field.”

This work has been incredibly important in ensuring that women and girls have equal access to space development, technology, and innovation. Importantly, space is borderless; it is not confined by geographical markers in the same way countries are. Thus, as the world moves to develop this new frontier, all groups must have a seat at the table. Referencing UN sustainable development goals is just one way to ensure all are welcome and included in the process of developing space.

Finally, Vered’s work with Space4Women serves as a testament to the tremendous changemakers that are IVLP alumni. All around the world in their respective fields, whether they work in the public or private sector, for their national governments or for International Organizations, IVLP alumni are making a difference. As we move forward into the coming months of uncertainty – when diplomacy and international exchange will certainly look different – we will look to the work IVLP alumni around the world are doing. By seeing their efforts, discovering new ideas, and having refreshing conversations, we can ensure that the very principles the UN has set out to promote peace and prosperity do indeed define international connections in the coming decades.

If you’re interested in getting involved:

  1. Consider joining the Science Accelerator program. Their registration is opening soon, and they are looking for schools to join their space entrepreneurship family.

  2. Visit the Space4Women website to learn more about the network or to contact one of the mentors. They are happy to participate in online conferences and discussions, in addition to discussing campaigns to raise awareness.

  3. Contact Global Ties KC with any interest in collaborating as CBMs.