Former NASA deputy administrator Laurie Garver has warned that SpaceX may struggle to recruit and maintain its workforce if it does not reform its “bro culture.”
“These missiles don’t build themselves,” Garver For CNN Business. “The best and the smartest, they won’t put up with behavior that really is a distraction.”
“Brotherhood culture could have worked in the past because the vast majority of engineers were white males,” she added. “This is no longer the case. We are making full use of all comers. All opinions.”
A SpaceX spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from Insider.
Garver told CNN Business she was disappointed to hear reports alleging employee concerns about SpaceX’s work culture.
Last month, SpaceX employees wrote a letter to company president Gwen Shotwell criticizing Elon Musk’s behavior, which they described as a “recurring source of distraction and embarrassment.” The next day the New York Times reported that the Space Project had fired several employees who helped organize the letter.
In addition to mentioning Musk’s tweets, the letter cited a recent allegation of sexual misconduct against the SpaceX CEO that was first reported by Insider. She alleged that the company paid a former flight attendant $250,000 after she accused Musk of sexually harassing her. Musk told Insider at the time that there was “a lot of story,” but later joked about the allegations on Twitter.
“If I am inclined to engage in sexual harassment, it is unlikely that it will be the first time in my 30-year career,” Musk told Insider at the time.
Last year, a former SpaceX engineer said that “misogyny is rampant” in the company and claimed that it had been sexually harassed. Four former employees described similar experiences, reported by The Verge.
In her memoirs published last month, “Escape from Gravity: My Mission to Transform NASA and Launch a New Age of Space,” Garver said she has consistently gone racket for Musk and SpaceX despite criticism from NASA. In one instance, she said she was told to “get your son Elon in class.”
“SpaceX has a big lead and is running faster than any competitor, including all the major airlines,” Garver wrote in her book. “For me, that’s cool and scary at the same time.”
Garver’s memoir traces the marketing of the US space industry during Garver’s tenure as NASA deputy administrator during the Obama administration, highlighting the agency’s early interactions with SpaceX and Garver’s efforts to make space launches affordable.
She told CNN Business that if companies like SpaceX don’t start tackling gender discrimination, “they will lose the workforce.”
In the memoir, the former NASA official detailed several cases in which sexism in the aviation industry negatively affected her career.
“Many people who disagreed with my views attacked me with vulgar language, genderedness, looting, and physical threats,” Garver wrote. “I’ve been called the ugly bitch, the damn bitch, and the bitch; I was told I needed to give birth, and asked if I was on my period or having menopause.”
Despite her criticism of industry sexism, Garver’s book is often read as an ode to SpaceX and Musk.
“It’s hard to separate my story from Elon because I wouldn’t have been able to make much of a transformation at NASA without him and SpaceX. We bled for the same reason and made the same enemies,” she wrote. “We all need each other to succeed.”
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