But in the aerospace industry broadly, men outnumber women roughly eight to one, according to census data compiled by Data U.S.A. More women have been sharing stories of sexism and harassment while on the job. Women who work as interns and seek full-time jobs may be particularly vulnerable to harassment and other forms of discrimination, especially when anti-sexual harassment education is scant, as Ms. Kosak said. Human relations departments, including SpaceX’s, employees say, have not always been quick to discipline or terminate employees who have been the subject of an investigation.
Women at other space companies have also described discriminatory workplace dynamics. In September, a group of 21 current and former employees of Blue Origin, the space company owned by Jeff Bezos, wrote in an essay on Lioness that the company was rife with sexism and retaliated against those who speak up about safety issues. The company has denied the accusations.
Ms. Kosak said in an interview that she felt compelled to go public with her experience at SpaceX after seeing the essay about Blue Origin, which was written by Alexandra Abrams, the company’s former head of employee communications, who was fired by Blue Origin in 2019.
On Nov. 8, Ms. Kosak said in an interview, she met with Ms. Shotwell and Brian Bjelde, the company’s human resources chief, about her complaint against the man who she said had groped her in 2018 as well as other sexual discrimination complaints, but made no progress. “It was a meeting where I spoke at them, they spoke at me, and we all left and that was that,” she said.
When Ms. Kosak resigned on Nov. 22, she said the man who touched her in 2018 was still working at SpaceX. The man’s LinkedIn profile shows he is still employed with the company.
Julia CrowleyFarenga interned for SpaceX from 2015 through 2017 while she was a student at Purdue University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She accused SpaceX in a lawsuit in 2020 of retaliation after she reported uncomfortable interactions with her manager, who would schedule longer performance meetings with her than her male colleagues and repeatedly ask questions about and comment on her dating life. Another manager allowed her to transfer to a different department, she said. But when she applied for a job in 2018, the lawsuit says, she learned the second manager blocked her from getting an offer despite high performance ratings. Ms. CrowleyFarenga and SpaceX settled the lawsuit earlier this year.
The former intern who went on to work for the company for five years said she witnessed and heard about sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. While rooming with other women during her internships in 2016 and 2017, “half of them had stories about situations that made them uncomfortable,” she said.