A former engineer at SpaceX has come forward to reveal the sexual harassment she experienced over the course of her employment until she was forced to leave the company.
What she’s saying: Ashley Kosak, who worked as a mission integration engineer, said her time with SpaceX was rife with sexual harassment, as well as gender and racial bias. So far, her alleged harassers have not been held accountable.
- She detailed her sexual harassment experience in a post on Lioness, a website that brands itself as “a storytelling platform and new media company that brings forward stories about encounters with power.”
- Kosak said she entered SpaceX as an intern in 2017. Two years later, she joined the company full-time as a build reliability engineer and was later promoted to mission integration. “For a woman, particularly an Asian American woman, to reach a position at this level in the space industry is next to impossible,” she wrote.
- During her internship, Kosak said “countless men” made sexual advances toward her. Just a few weeks after her start date, she alleges, a fellow intern and housemate “grabbed [her] butt while [she] was washing [her] dishes.” In 2018, she says another male colleague “ran his hand over [her] shirt, from [her] lower waist to [her] chest” during a team bonding event. Kosak went on to cite several more incidents of sexism that targeted other women over the past year.
- Kosak said she reported all her experiences to human resources but never received any resolution. She even presented ideas for “a standardized framework for penalizing sexual harassers,” but those were also allegedly ignored.
- “I reported each incident of sexual harassment I experienced to HR, and nothing was done. I was told that matters of this nature were too private to openly discuss with the perpetrators. Instead, they said mandated company training programs would be held,” Kosak wrote. “Each and every man who harassed me was tolerated despite the company’s so-called no-tolerance and no-asshole policy.”
- For several years, Kosak said she chose to stay in spite of the harassment due in part to the company’s promise that they were changing the world. She recalled doing her best to compartmentalize “the things [she] put up with as a woman” on a daily basis.
- “Rocket science is not something you learn overnight; it’s a phenomenal field of expertise that is shared within the company, and a magic you learn to harness. I took great joy in that. We were promised we could change the world, and every time we met a goal it felt like all this pain, distrust, and sacrifice was worth it,” Kosak wrote. “I also stayed at SpaceX because the promise of the company is a carrot that spoke to everything I dreamed of as a first-generation American and woman in STEM: the chance to be part of a team that does the impossible and makes history, the hope of financial security, the creation of intergenerational wealth through sheer hard work.”
- In November of this year, Kosak’s psychiatrist wrote to recommend to the company that she take a leave of absence, as she was experiencing panic attacks and heart palpitations. During her leave, she received “a frantic cadence of calls” from HR. Believing they wanted to ask her to sign a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for money, she quit 10 days later.
The big picture: Kosak is only one of multiple former SpaceX employees who have made allegations about sexual harassment in the company. This month, The Verge spoke with four other people who all “claimed to have experienced similar types of treatment or witnessed other women and nonbinary people dealing with harassment at the company.”
- All four ex-employees agreed that SpaceX is “a bit of a ‘boys’ club,’” and believe the company is reluctant to hold some of the perpetrators accountable, “especially if those men have put in a lot of time at SpaceX or have contributed great things to the company.”
- As of this writing, SpaceX has not made any public statement in response to Kosak’s claims; however, President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell sent a company-wide email that reminded employees of the company’s “no A-hole” policy, The Verge reported.