Diversity and inclusiveness are at the heart of ESA’s values and feature at the top of ESA’s Agenda 2025 as key elements to achieve ESA’s transformation. Eight steps, aimed at advancing these values in the form of concrete initiatives, will pave the way for continuous improvement.
The strategic challenge of focusing on diversity and inclusiveness will help strengthen innovation, reduce resistance to change, boost motivation, inspire people and foster knowledge sharing. Our end goal is to embed real and lasting change into the fabric of our agency, and to make the values of diversity and inclusivity an integral part of our culture.
Ensuring that ESA’s workforce can represent a competent and diverse pool of talent has been identified as a priority by ESA Member States and is seen as a key success factor. To continue to attract and retain the “best and brightest”, we must strengthen our efforts to reach out to a wider community and ensure a work environment where different perspectives are welcomed and valued, as one of the most important of our agency.
Beyond geographical diversity – which has always been a major strength and a fundamental priority of ESA, where concrete actions and initiatives have long been established – we are committed to “Eight Steps Forward” to specifically address areas of gender, generation, disability and identity. . These priorities will be reviewed regularly and expanded to include other aspects of diversity, to ensure that they reflect ESA’s long-term vision.
Gender balance is one of our main areas of focus and dedicated initiatives have helped achieve several tangible improvements. The percentage of female staff at ESA has increased systematically over the past five years and currently stands at 29%. It is also worth mentioning the progress on the representation of women in management positions: in 2021, the share of women in management positions reached a record level of 17%, a significant increase if we consider a value of 8% in 2016.
This trend of increasing the representation of women at all levels should be supported in order to achieve the goal of a gender-balanced workforce. ESA has set a target to ensure that 40% of new recruits are women each year, as well as actions to ensure gender diversity in assessment panels and to use gender-neutral language. We will also address gender balance in organizing panels at conferences and events.
Another objective is to improve the generational mix and thus reduce the average age of the workforce, which is currently 49.2 years old. This requires becoming a more attractive employer for younger generations, and great attention will be given to revising the working conditions of the Young Graduate Trainee and Researcher programmes. The recently introduced Young Professionals Program is also an effective tool to support workforce rejuvenation.
The recruitment of people with disabilities is also a specific objective that requires specific actions, including partnerships with universities and relevant organizations, and will be facilitated by the adoption of new digital tools and technologies as well as the removal of physical barriers affecting accessibility of ESA workstations. Specifically, we have also launched the “Parastronaut” project to shed light on the many unknowns and clarify the prerequisites for a safe and useful space mission for an astronaut with a physical disability.
The benefits of diversity can only be unleashed by ensuring a work environment that actively encourages inclusion. Everyone should feel seen, valued and understood as an individual with unique identity, skills and experience. Creating an inclusive workplace culture and environment allows diverse employees to experience equality and flourish, and increases employee engagement.
ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said: “An agency can only be as strong as its people and ESA’s greatest asset is its diverse workforce, united in its efforts. Diversity has always been at the heart of ESA’s strength and values.
“Since its creation in 1975, ESA has welcomed people from many States, benefiting from the great diversity of their skills, cultures and experiences. Bringing together different perspectives and ideas is an asset, and one of the greatest characteristics of ESA as a source of inspiration, enrichment and innovation.
Diversity and inclusion: eight steps forward
- STEP 1. Aim to have at least 40% female recruitment by 2025, in support of balanced gender representation overall
- STEP 2. Make visible ESA’s commitment to an equal workforce
- STEP 3. Strive to ensure gender diversity on review panels and other relevant advisory bodies, such as conferences, councils and expert groups
- STEP 4. Increase the number of new recruits with disabilities
- STEP 5. Remove physical barriers
- STEP 6. Ensure a work environment where staff can be comfortable and confident about their identity
- STEP 7. Strive to reduce the average recruitment age at ESA
- STEP 8. Obtain the support of the management team to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace and ensure that they communicate internally and externally ESA’s commitment to progress