Former SpaceX employees say the company has a culture of sexual harassment

Tesla is not the only company in Elon Musk’s portfolio that has problems with sexual harassment. Women who have previously worked at SpaceX, including mission engineer Ashley Kosak and four others interviewed The Verge, accused the company of doing little to stop sexual harassment. The male staff reportedly made a number of unwanted shifts, rude comments and physical contact. Kosak claimed that one colleague went so far as to visit her house and insisted on touching her, while former intern Julia CrowleyFarenga (who sued SpaceX 2020) said a male employee blocked her from getting a job after she reported his control behavior.

SpaceX was reportedly unwilling to take significant action. Although women reported incidents to SpaceX’s human resources, the company seemed more interested in keeping the company’s plans on track than in addressing harassment. HR asked Košak to propose solutions to sexual harassment, but there was no follow-up – and neither human resources manager Brian Bjelde nor company president Gwynne Shotwell were apparently aware of her allegations when she met them.

We asked SpaceX for comment. In the email The Verge However, Shotwell was aware of Košak’s web essay on the issue and said HR would conduct internal and independent audits of its practices. She also reiterated SpaceX’s “no-holes” policy and that harassment targets should continue to report incidents to HR or managers. Shotwell, however, did not touch on concerns about retaliation, and the news came just as six other Tesla workers were suing on charges of sexual harassment.

All affected women associated the problems with leadership and a company culture that gave priority to the mission over the well-being of workers. Elon Musk sees engineers as “a resource to be mined,” Kosak said, not people to worry about. Insert a predominantly male workforce that leaves women isolated (one complainant compared it to a “boys’ club ”) and women may have little chance of having meaningful fun with harassment. If this is the case, any long-term solutions may require changes in governance and policies, not just better implementation of existing policies.

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Naveen Kumar

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