New York, 16 November 2021 (TDI): Mindy Howard is an astronaut coach and the founding director of the Netherlands-based Inner Space Training. She is empowering girls to reach for the international space industry. She is also encouraging them to pursue careers in the still male-dominated field.

Mindy Howard

She is a mentor with UNSpace4Women Network. It is an initiative of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). Howard is helping young women to break psychological barriers. Mindy Howard is currently one of the 56 women space industry leaders. Moreover, she is a professional with the UN mentor program. Howard is creating a supportive environment where women can thrive like their male counterparts. For instance, in space science, technology, innovation, and exploration.

Mindy Howard signs autographs for girls after giving a TEDx talk at the British School in the Netherlands
Mindy Howard signs autographs for girls after giving a TEDx talk at the British School in the Netherlands

Mindy Howard said to the UN News in an interview; remarked that it is about giving girls a safe space to explore things they want to be doing. Those girls young enough with Instagram are particularly vulnerable to self-doubt. Society puts a lot of pressure on them to succeed. Those girls often think they will fall short if compared to the guys.

Video conferencing with mentees once a month. Howard also provides educational and career advice, such as interviewing techniques and introducing the girls to other space professionals.

Closing the gender gap

According to the UN, the number of female workers in the space industry represents just 20 to 22 percent of the productive workforce. It is roughly the same proportion as 30 years ago. Only 11 percents of astronauts are women.

Teachers and parents play their part in dissuading girls into pursuing careers in aerospace. Moreover, This phenomenon is more prevalent in less developed countries. It is due to no national space agency exists.

Mindy Howard referred to the gender gap in the space sector. For Howard, to close the gender gap would require a paradigm shift. Girls need to develop competitive skills. Moreover, they need to learn about female heroes in STEM fields.

If a girl does not study these things in school, she won’t ever think if she wants to be an astrophysicist.

Feminine traits

The space sector is of the style of survival of the fittest ideologically, has historically disadvantaged several demographic sectors like women, people of color, and also people with disabilities.

She mentioned there is a need to replace this mindset with an inclusive and diverse culture. The culture will value teamwork and emotional self-awareness. Fearlessness not only helps women and girls excel. It will also be crucial for problem-solving during future long-term missions to the Moon and Mars. 

Strengthen women’s role

Space4Women expert meeting was held in Dubai from 21 to 22 October. Mindy Howard and others also discussed how to strengthen women’s role in the field. Particularly in leadership and policymaking.

The Space4Women aimed to promote gender equality and empowerment. Moreover, Howard mentioned that she is talking with several companies and individuals about training along with coaching and accompanying commercial astronauts on suborbital missions. She aims to become the first Dutch woman in space.