International Day of Women and Girls in Science

11 February 2019

Vienna, Austria



Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to address this great audience here today and I would like to thank my colleagues for their illuminating insight into the topic. Celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science is indeed a great opportunity to recognize the critical role women and girls play in science and technology.

With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals 70 years after the UN has made it clear in its Charter that equality between genders is a fundamental right, we can clearly see that the issue of inequalities between genders is still very much relevant in today's world. International consensus devoting SDG 5 to gender equality underlines the importance that the countries worldwide assign to the issue.

SDG 5, however is not only a goal in itself. Gender equality is a cross-cutting issue with implications on human society as a whole and affects efforts throughout all other SDGs. We cannot view gender equality simply as an objective, but also see it as a means for change, affecting all other Goals.

Unfortunately, as already underlined by my fellow panellists, the space sector is by far no exception in this issue, with women comprising only alarming 20 percent of the aerospace workforce and STEM fields in general not faring much better. What is important to highlight is the fact that these numbers have changed only slightly in the last three decades.

To address this long-lasting gender gap, and to attract more women into STEM, one of the most important areas we need to focus on, connected to empowerment of women and girls, is their access to education of high-quality intertwining Goals 4 and 5 in that regard. 


Ladies and gentlemen,

Also leveraging on my over 30 years of experience in both the space sector and gender empowerment, I can say that it is about time to progress and work towards equality throughout the whole sector from STEM education to institutional awareness and career counselling.

In the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs we uphold the fundamental fact that without gender equality and empowerment of women, we cannot fully take advantage of the potential and talent of a significant part of the human population.

The Space for Women Project, developed and coordinated by UNOOSA, aims at strengthening awareness, capacity and skills of individuals and institutions with emphasis on the importance of promoting gender equality in the sector and help communicate and facilitate access to opportunities in STEM education and the space sector itself. Let me explain four concrete actions we are embarking on under the project.

Firstly, to create sound and effective policies, and to really make a difference we need to work together with a variety of stakeholders and promote dialogue between relevant actors so that we can take action towards empowerment together. Part of the efforts of the Project is to organize international conferences , bringing together representatives from governments, private sector, academia, civil society and public figures to share ideas and opinions on how we can best address the issue.

Additionally, falling under the same umbrella of capacity building, we intend to facilitate activities in developing nations and provide advice, expertise, knowledge and data to relevant institutions and governments to improve access and use of space technology to motivate, educate, and train women and girls in their societies and ultimately, internationally.

On top of that, one way to attract broader audiences and boost the image of STEM is by promoting female role models, which are critical in capturing the attention of children and students to pursue such education and careers in space. As part of the project, and a response to one of the recommendations of the Space for Women Expert Meeting held in New York in 2017, we therefore aim to establish a Space for Women Champions Network , focused on advocacy and awareness raising, to provide role models and mentors to inspire, guide, encourage and support women and girls in pursuing STEM education and careers in the space sector.

And finally, to extend networking opportunities to audiences worldwide we are developing a Space for Women forum as a central hub for global initiatives under the UN roof. Here women and girls will be able to talk to one another, share and exchange information about working in space sector and about education in STEM fields.

The Space for Women project as it is currently developing and progressing is made possible through the generous support from the Governments of Austria and Israel as well as through ESA and Women in Aerospace Europe. In this regard you are all warmly encouraged to consider how you could contribute to this project as we look to increase the impact of these activities to make a difference for more young women around the world.

So, what is next? Thanks to the generous contribution of the Government of Israel we are proud to inform that the development of the Space4Women website is on a good track. This will include a collaboration platform to bring virtually together all the various existing initiatives in place under the roof of UNOOSA. With the release of the website expected in the first half of 2019 we will also announce the ways and means of how to contribute to the champions network.

We are looking forward to receiving many applications from the delegations, women and men alike, to join as champions for young women who want to progress and make a career in the space sector. Furthermore, we are currently working with our counterparts to be able to announce a follow-up event on Space4Women soon and are in discussion with a Member State to organise a pilot Institutional Capacity Building Mission.

The entire project is part of a broader UN effort to tackle the issue of gender inequality in all sectors in global context. For me as a woman, but more importantly as a human, it is still shocking to see the wide gaps in STEM in general, and in space sector in particular, and this feeling is multiplied by the fact that figures have gone relatively unchanged for decades.

There are several factors influencing low participation rates of women and girls in STEM education and workforce, but through the Project we call for concrete plans, concrete actions and concrete results and therefore I am convinced that TOGETHER we will make a real difference.

Thank you.


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