Speaking to the Guardian, Rita Schulz revealed to the paper that despite being the lead scientist for the mission from 2007-2013 she was then “shafted” by management just six months before the mission reached its destination.
Schulz said she had to watch the historic mission from her living room after being denied an invite to the mission control room.
The German scientist was originally hired in 1996 however by the time she was replaced in 2013 she remained the only woman in leadership on an active mission.
“I was the only one for 20 years, sitting in the room with all these men,” she explained. “I really think there should be more.”
Rosetta mission scientist Jochen Kissel revealed in the piece that he is “surprised still to this day” that Schulz kicked off the mission.
“If you go there [ESA headquarters] it’s all men, except at the reception of course where it’s always a woman.”
Responding to Schulz’s comments, the ESA submitted a written response to the Guardian:
“ESA has a long commitment to diversity and gender equality ... As many other organisations ESA suffers from the fact that the number of women who choose to graduate and follow a career in these fields is in all European countries significantly lower than the number of men.”
While Schulz told the Guardian that she had never experienced direct sexism at the ESA she’s certainly not alone when it comes to experiencing sexism in the space industry as a whole.
Back in November last year, a group of six Russian female astronauts were tasked with living inside a mock-spacecraft in Moscow for eight days.
The idea behind it was to test out the physical and psychological effects on the human body when undergoing long-term spaceflight.
Unfortunately the test itself was entirely overshadowed by a press conference during which the team were asked how they would cope without men or makeup for an entire week.
Unsurprisingly, their response was damning: “Those who will take part in an experiment are not concerned there won’t be any men in their crew. We are here to do our job and we don’t have time to think about men.”
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