Diversity of thought: Inclusion, innovation and space

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‘Without diversity it's like going into a room and having the lights half on: you don't see threats, you don't see solutions. With diversity, both demographic and disciplinary, you get a much fuller picture, which opens your options and opens it for innovation,’ said Joan Johnson-Freese, Professor, Naval War College, speaking during Oxford Saïd’s fifth Smart Space event, on Diversity of Thought: Inclusion, Innovation, and Space.

The panel, chaired by Renee Rottner, Assistant Professor, Technology Management Program at University of California Santa Barbara, also included Simon Adebola, MD, Engineer Lead, Anthem Inc. and Diploma in Strategy and Innovation candidate, Saïd Business School, and Sita Sonty, President of Sapphire Partners and Executive Board Member for Women in Aerospace. Starting with the acknowledgement that the space sector currently relies ‘overwhelmingly’ on people with engineering degrees, who are themselves overwhelmingly male, they discussed how to increase diversity at all levels across the sector.

Leadership creates the commitment to building diverse teams, but is also important in institutionalising the practices that maintain diversity, including quotas to increase the number of women.

A cross-disciplinary academic curriculum would encourage people to see the benefits of collaboration and introduces language and imagery ‘that allows us to imagine more than we are able to otherwise’. 

A more vibrant economic ecosystem, including support for the growth of commercial applications focused on a range of human issues, will attract and retain talent from a variety of fields, including medicine, agriculture, the environment, and the arts.