Written by Maria Grigolia and edited by Anca Grigorescu

“Never be limited by the limited imaginations of others.” – Mae Carol Jemison

In a transformative era marked by evolving policies and technological advances, particularly with the advent of AI and the challenges it brings, space has reached a crucial juncture. The field of space diplomacy is also at a pivotal moment, navigating shifting geopolitics and rapid technological advances. Technologies such as large-scale satellite networks, extraterrestrial habitats, and autonomous robots are among the innovations that will advance space exploration and address economic and digital inequalities (Cross & Pekkanen, 2023). These developments could allow for the redress of past imbalances of under-representation of women and minorities in politics, science, and technology throughout history and unleash the full potential of diverse perspectives to shape the course of space diplomacy and global security more inclusively. This paper argues that this juncture offers a unique opportunity to promote inclusivity through an active engagement of minority groups in international security affairs. It offers a chance to shine a spotlight on the transatlantic partnership by deftly translating shared values into space policy.

Addressing Inequality Starts in Academia

An examination of the experiences and career plans of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) graduates reveals significant disparities for under-represented minorities and women. One specific study suggests that the challenges faced by under-represented graduate students and women begin in school and manifest themselves in inadequate financial support and less supportive relationships with peers and postdocs (Stockard et al., 2021). In terms of gender, for example, men show greater commitment to completing a PhD and staying in chemistry, with greater aspirations for research-focused professorships (Stockard et al., 2021). When these inequalities persist, they jeopardise the fair representation of the same groups in top-ranked departments. Google’s 2020 Diversity Report found that only 5.5% of new tech hires in the United States were black. This shows that minority groups continue to be under-represented in STEM and professional fields. The lack of diversity not only limits individual potential, but also misses out on important insights and contributions (Patrick and Kumar, 2012).To ensure that space policy and related areas such as security issues are not left to a limited group, it is essential to address this issue both internationally and domestically.

Navigating DEI in the Cosmic Frontier

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have emerged as central themes in both public discourse and academic dialogue. Functioning as a guiding framework, DEI serves to promote justice and inclusivity across various facets of societal and organizational operations. This approach contributes to strengthening scientific enterprise and enhancing the overall well-being of society (Arsel et al., 2022). This mantra of DEI must be carried out into the working field of space diplomacy. Importantly, as diplomacy significantly influences outcomes in international relations, it also extends its impact into other realms such as space (Cross, 2019). In 2002, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Defence, Industry and Space (DG DEFIS) launched a survey on DEI to assess the current situation regarding these issues among employers and employees in various European and national bodies, including agencies, organisations and academic institutions. The results have been summarised in the ‘Union of Equality: EU Defence, Aeronautics and Space Sectors’ report, which provides some remarkable insights. The report found that women make up only 20% of the workforce in the space industry, with minorities also significantly under-represented. This highlights the long-standing problem of male dominance in the space sector, with a lack of women and minorities in key roles such as management, engineering and scientific positions (Union of Equality, 2022). Inclusive space diplomacy thus becomes a crucial extension of the DEI principles, ensuring that diverse voices and perspectives are actively included in the discourse and decision-making processes related to space exploration, research, and governance.

The Role of Inclusive Space Diplomacy in Strengthening Democracies Across the Transatlantic Alliance

Innovative technologies such as reusable rockets, mega-constellations and autonomous robotics promise unprecedented prosperity and progress for humanity (Cross and Pekkanen, 2023). While they offer solutions to economic and digital divides, certain technologies with dual-use capabilities raise concerns about their peaceful use. Different scholars such as Pekkan (2021) argue that this concern is particularly relevant in a world characterised by a resurgence of great power competition, where national rivalries extend into space. With these changes, the question arises how emerging challenges can most effectively be addressed. Diversity in space diplomacy could offer an opportunity to strengthen the transatlantic partnership. By promoting core Western values and principles of non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality in societies, democracies can work together to address potential threats from space technologies and ensure their peaceful use within the space domain. Consequently, inclusive space diplomacy is not only a matter of justice, but also a means of unlocking the full potential of the transatlantic partnership, which is manifesting as central to addressing global security challenges (Copernicus, 2023).

The need for rethinking is urgent and the power of the transatlantic partnership lies in shared democratic values, in particular in building a cooperative relationship to protect each other and to preserve democratic values against authoritarian challenges. The Atlantic Alliance has played a pivotal role in the international system, containing the Soviet threat, fostering the conditions that led to the demise of the Soviet Union, liberalising the global economy, and extending democratic governance to Eastern Europe and beyond (Kissinger et al., 2004). Year by year, as space is becoming a new significant frontier, democratic governance must be extended to this domain if the transatlantic relationship is to withstand the challenges of space. When women are excluded from various fields, they are denied the opportunity to tell their stories authentically, leading to a distorted reality (Glavinc 2010). Inclusivity is essential to accurately represent the diversity of opinions and issues in society and make sure the foundations of democratic systems are preserved, in which the need for fair representation of all segments of society is undeniable. Failure to do so can expose vulnerabilities that can be exploited by state aggressors to undermine democratic values, including the rights of women and minorities. Addressing misrepresentation and promoting inclusivity in democratic institutions is not just a matter of fairness, but a fundamental component essential to ensuring democratic resilience and security (Ramos et al. 2019). In this context, DEI in space diplomacy should be seen as an opportunity and a proactive step towards the implementation of positive action for gender equality in space policy.

Proactive Steps for Action

A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2022) suggests that to promote inclusivity in space diplomacy, international actors and organisations could increase transparency in both the pre-proposal and proposal processes. One recommendation is for the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) to mandate the inclusion of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) plans in proposals, with explicit consideration of DEIA during reviews. Collaboration with subject matter experts is essential to implement and monitor compliance throughout the mission lifecycle (National Academics, 2022). Furthermore, at the national level, democratic countries must also support the equitable development of the education of women and other minority groups in schools, universities and other areas of science in order to empower them and give them equal opportunities to engage in STEM and other space-related work.


State and private actors need to support education and training programs that provide under-represented groups with the skills and knowledge essential to engage in space-related fields, to ensure that diverse voices are well represented in space diplomacy discussions, negotiations, and international conferences, and to celebrate the achievements of women and minority groups in space and security to inspire and empower future generations.

The imperative for inclusive space diplomacy within the Transatlantic Partnership represents a critical opportunity to shape the trajectory of the future of how global security and space-related challenges are addressed. As the world navigates shifting geopolitics and rapid technological advances, particularly in the realm of space, embracing inclusivity is of paramount importance. This moment offers an opportunity not only to redress historical underrepresentation, but also to harness the full potential of diverse perspectives and opinions, as the paper outlines. As shown before, existing gender and racial disparities in STEM fields in academia and later working fields underscore the importance of promoting inclusivity not only for individual advancement, but also for the collective benefit of addressing complex challenges in space-related domains. Thus the commitment to the principles of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) must extend seamlessly into the realm of space diplomacy, where its application becomes an integral part of ensuring that diverse voices actively contribute to the discourse and decision-making processes. In essence, the powerful potential of inclusive space diplomacy lies not only in addressing current challenges, but in shaping a future where diversity, equity and justice are fundamental principles in the exploration and governance of space. The Transatlantic Partnership, with its shared democratic values, has a central role to play in ensuring that the new frontier of space is governed by principles that reflect the richness and inclusiveness of our global society.

The time for inclusive space diplomacy is now. In this ever-expanding cosmos, the greatest strength of the Transatlantic Partnership lies in embracing diversity and coming together as a society to break free from the constraints of history and to pave the way for a more inclusive future.



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2. Glavinic, T. (2010). Exclusion, misrepresentation and discrimination: Still prevalent for women in American media and politics. http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/a?id=129

3. Stockard, J., Rohlfing, C. M., & Richmond, G. L. (2021). Equity for women and underrepresented minorities in STEM: Graduate experiences and career plans in chemistry. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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8. National Academics. (2022, May 18). Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Competed Space Mission Leadership at NASA Will Require Extensive Efforts Along Entire Career Pathways, Says New Report. https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2022/05/advancing-diversity-equity-inclusion-and-accessibility-in-competed-space-mission-leadership-at-nasa-will-require-extensive-efforts-along-entire-career-pathways-says-new-report

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10. Arsel, Z., Crockett, D., & Scott, M. L. (2022). Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the Journal of Consumer Research: A Curation and Research Agenda.

11. Cross, M. K. D., & Pekkanen, S. M. (2023). Introduction. Space Diplomacy: The Final Frontier of Theory and Practice. The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, 18(2-3), 193-217.

12. European Commission, Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space, (2022) Union of equality : EU defence industry, aeronautics and space sectors: final report. Publications Office of the European Union.

13. Copernicus, 2023. Observer: Towards Equality in the Cosmos and Diversity & Inclusion in Space. https://www.copernicus.eu/en/news/news/observer-towards-equality-cosmos-and-diversity-inclusion-space-sector

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