The final frontier, from women in space to the workplace

Unless you’ve been living in outer space, chances are the recent NASA and Chinese exploration missions have been on your radar? 

Ok, enough with the space puns!

Our Gender Equality Matters staff network was privileged to receive a visit from Libby Jackson, an expert in the field of human spaceflight, having worked as a flight director in mission control and was a key part of the team which supported UK astronaut, Tim Peake, during his 186 days stay in space.

As you can imagine, Libby is in the minority as one of the few females considered a human spaceflight expert. And to celebrate the achievements of female space pioneers, published A Galaxy of Her Own.

The book profiles 50 amazing stories of women who have played their part in the history of human spaceflight.

As an organisation which champions diversity and inclusion, we wanted to hear more.

Q. There can’t be many people, especially female, who are experts in human spaceflight; what led you into this field of work?

I’ve always been fascinated by space and was encouraged by my parents and then by some inspirational science teachers to do what I love, rather than what I was expected to do.

Q. Does the working environment in mission control differ to that of the everyday office environment, or are there similarities?

Every day is different – It’s just like it is in the movies! My most enjoyable days are when things go wrong – bizarre I know. But the challenge of ‘here’s a problem and let’s fix it’, is what makes me tick.

Q. What was your motivations for writing the book; A Galaxy of Her Own?

Everyone knows Neil Armstrong and lots of people forget Helen Sharman but talk about Tim Peake. There have been women playing important roles in human spaceflight ever since it started and I wanted to celebrate their work. There are so many different jobs that people do to get the astronauts into space, and it is important that is young people know that it is an industry everyone is welcome in, regardless of gender or any other label that society might place on you.

Q. What is your advice for companies who are striving for a more inclusive workplace?

Educate people on unconscious bias, encourage behaviours and actions that create more equality. Anything that separates us based on our gender just entrenches the idea that there are differences in what women can and can’t do with their lives.

Q. Why is gender equality so important to you?

My niece loves to play with Lego, cars and rockets, when she went to school though she was made to question if this was right or not. I’m passionate about wanting young people to do what they love doing. A girl can play with Lego and a boy can dance, gender is irrelevant.

Inclusion matters at Nationwide. We want our workplace to reflect the communities and cultures our 15 million members come from. We’re passionate about our people feeling valued, supported, comfortable and confident to be themselves, so they can reach their full potential.