Former SpaceX engineer essay alleges culture is ‘rife with sexism’

Former SpaceX engineer essay alleges culture is 'rife with sexism'

A Falcon 9 rocket is displayed outdoors the Area Exploration Applied sciences Corp. (SpaceX) headquarters on January 28, 2021 in Hawthorne, California.

Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Photos

A feminine former worker of Elon Musk’s SpaceX alleged in an essay revealed Tuesday that the house firm’s office is “rife with sexism” and that its human sources workforce doesn’t defend victims of harassment or abuse.

Ashley Kosak, who labored at SpaceX for about 4 years as an intern after which as an engineer, alleged in her essay on weblog web site Lioness that SpaceX’s tradition is “in a state of disrepair and dysfunction so nice that the one treatment, lastly, was to go away.” Kosak left SpaceX in November and now works for Apple.

“I do know that SpaceX is now making an attempt to enhance … what I actually hope occurs is that not solely girls come to grasp how widespread this difficulty is but in addition their male counterparts,” Kosak advised CNBC in an interview on Tuesday. “We are able to proceed to attempt to truly begin holding folks accountable.”

CNBC additionally spoke with Julia CrowleyFarenga, who was a three-time intern at SpaceX and alleged her personal cases of sexual harassment and HR negligence.

CrowleyFarenga sued SpaceX for discrimination and retaliation in 2020 after not being employed. The lawsuit has since “been resolved,” CrowleyFarenga stated. She now works for the California Institute of Expertise at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“It is actually essential for folks to listen to these tales in order that hopefully these accountable will likely be held accountable for his or her actions,” CrowleyFarenga stated.

SpaceX didn’t reply to CNBC’s repeated requests for remark.

The corporate has about 10,000 staff throughout america, lots of whom Kosak would have hung out round throughout her work at its headquarters in Los Angeles and its launch operations amenities in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Kosak and CrowleyFarenga paint a special image of SpaceX versus the best way the corporate seems publicly. Feminine engineers usually host the corporate’s launch webcasts, that are seen by tens of millions on-line, whereas SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell has turn into one of the highly effective girls within the house trade.

In Musk’s interview with Time journal revealed Monday, he described SpaceX’s Starship growth facility in Texas as “like a expertise monastery” and stated the corporate’s workforce is male-dominated.

“There’s hardly any — there are some girls right here — however not many, and it is distant and we do expertise,” Musk stated within the interview.

Notably, SpaceX is just not alone as an area firm dealing with inner criticism of its tradition. Earlier this 12 months Lioness revealed an identical essay by Alexandra Abrams, the previous head of worker communications at Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

Abrams’ essay, endorsed anonymously by 20 different present and former Blue Origin staff, alleged a “poisonous” office that created a sexist atmosphere. Blue Origin has had a unstable 12 months, starting from the successes of launching 14 folks on its New Shepard rocket to the turmoil of excessive worker turnover.

Their expertise

Kosak began at SpaceX as an intern in 2017, earlier than the corporate employed her full time in 2019. Throughout her time as an intern, Kosak alleged, one other intern “grabbed my butt whereas I used to be washing my dishes” within the firm’s housing. She stated she reported the incident to 2 colleagues, together with a superior, however that “the matter was by no means delivered to HR” and that she continued “residing in residence with this man.”

She wrote that over the following two years as she interned for the corporate “numerous males” made “sexual advances towards me” and alleged one other incident wherein “a male colleague ran his hand over my shirt, from my decrease waist to my chest.” Kosak stated she once more reported the incident to her supervisors and this time met with HR.

“Nobody adopted up. This man remained a part of the workforce I reported to and labored for,” Kosak alleged.

In 2021, as a full-time worker, Kosak introduced additional “incidents of sexism to HR,” together with ones that she witnessed, she stated.

“Once we needed to work at home in the course of the pandemic, males from the corporate discovered my Instagram account, messaging me to ask me out. One referred to as my telephone at 4:00 am. One other coworker got here to my home and insisted on touching me even once I repeatedly requested we keep skilled,” Kosak stated.

She alleged that “nothing was completed” in response to every incident she reported to HR.

“I used to be advised that issues of this nature had been too non-public to overtly talk about with the perpetrators. As an alternative, they stated mandated firm coaching packages can be held,” Kosak stated.

Kosak stated that after extra incidents, she submitted “a message to the SpaceX nameless Ethics and Compliance tip line.” However “regardless of its marketed anonymity,” Kosak stated, “the tip line was truly a Microsoft kind that permits the admins to see the submitter’s id.”

“Per week later, I used to be contacted by HR and confronted with invasive questions relating to the character of the harassment,” Kosak stated.

Earlier than she left the corporate, Kosak stated, she met with SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, in addition to the corporate’s head of HR.

“They assured me they’d by no means heard about my harassment experiences, and stated that executive-level management is just not concerned in discussions of the frequency of this difficulty inside their departments,” Kosak wrote.

Shotwell has beforehand stated that SpaceX has a “no a——” coverage. In a commencement address at Northwestern University earlier this year, Shotwell said “a——-” are people who “interrupt others” and “create a hostile environment where no one wants to contribute.” But Kosak alleged in her essay that SpaceX’s culture does not follow that policy in practice, writing that “each and every man who harassed me was tolerated despite the company’s so-called no-tolerance and no-a—— policy.”

“Ultimately, I was disappointed,” Kosak told CNBC. “Because I thought, by the time that I was in that meeting [with Shotwell], they would have known.”

CrowleyFarenga added that it’s “absurd” that SpaceX leadership would only recently be “hearing about sexual harassment at the company.” She said that she was in a women’s network with a mentor who would talk to Shotwell, and discussed how a SpaceX male supervisor treated CrowleyFarenga while she was an intern.

“Gwynne [Shotwell] was not happy to hear that a manager was spending two hours with his intern,” CrowleyFarenga said.

In her essay, Kosak added that “the last I heard, new SpaceX interns would receive training on how to better report their harassment,” but emphasized that her alleged harassers “have still not been held to account.”

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