Congratulations Shelli on winning the Diversity and Inclusion Role Model award! You are an absolutely a powerhouse ! How did it feel when you found out you had won it?
Honored. Proud. Humbled. There is no greater feeling of community than to be recognized amongst your peers — the 100,000 and growing women, minorities and allies of the WomenTech Global Network. I also feel a heightening sense of responsibility to lead the diversity and inclusion movement as we head into 2021. The WomenTechGlobal Awards 2020 was so much more than an event to honor the most accomplished women in tech. It signified a defining chapter in our global effort for equality, inclusion and diversity — not only for women, but for all people. The WomenTech Awards event was a celebration for the innumerable actions and impacts of every woman — in their own way, in every corner of the planet today — that has contributed to our collective mission to support the empowerment of women through gender inclusion and diversity.
Could you tell us a little about you and your path to founding Space Foundation, the world’s premier organization to inspire, educate, connect, and advocate on behalf of the global space community.
My career trajectory into the space industry began with a mission for service beyond self. Foremost, my enlistment in the United States Air Force gave me the pathway to “aim higher” and become an officer leading teams in this country and overseas. Getting out from behind my desk, embracing every opportunity led to my roles as a space acquisition and program management leader and Congressional Liaison for the US Air Force. From there, I saw the opportunity to serve the greater good beyond the military, and today I am living that out at Space Foundation through the Center for Innovation and Education, which creates and delivers inclusive, innovative, and sustainable workforce development and economic opportunity programs, and Space Symposium 365, our virtual gateway to lifelong learning in the space industry.
Who/what has the biggest impact on making you who you are today? A person, mentor or life changing events.
A person: Melinda Gates. Her book, “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World,” is insightful and inspiring. She is committing $1 billion to promote gender equality. She is not afraid to look at big, hard problems, and she is not afraid to tackle them. The Gates Foundation, like Space Foundation, understands that resources alone are not enough. We must have partners at all levels to create change in individual lives, impacting communities, and ultimately impacting the world. A Life-changing event: Early in my career, I participated in as many networking events as possible. In Washington, that means many events per year. There is so much going on, so it is difficult to be everywhere at once. On one occasion, there was an evening reception for senior Air Force executives that were several levels of command above anyone in our department. No one planned to attend, so I did! This decision was pivotal to a connection that led to an opportunity at the Sam Rayburn House Office Building right next to the U.S. Capitol — and the experience of a lifetime. I was appointed as an Air Force congressional liaison, representing the Air Force secretary and chief of staff to the U.S. House of Representatives and contributing to the USAF budget. My life lesson: Get out from behind your desk! Go the extra mile! Seize opportunity and be ready when it comes your way!
What is your biggest motivation for your work?
The potential to impact a single person’s life that could be the key to improving the daily lives of many around the globe — that is my biggest motivation each and every day. Because space is a critical infrastructure, it connects every citizen, community, country and continent, but there is a critical need to bring more resources -- people, products and partners into it. A day doesn’t pass that I am not advocating, connecting and endeavouring to move the needle to bring one more individual, one more organization into the $424 billion space-inspired industry. Any one of these individuals or groups has the potential to transform healthcare, agriculture, business, transportation, education, finance and so much more. Meeting, engaging and connecting with likeminded people that want to transcend their communities is a daily source of adrenaline and inspiration.
What is our final message to people who want to pursue a similar career and for those who want to be a role model for diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Going forward, we need to advocate for action and impact — beyond talk, we need to provide students to professionals with tangible roadmaps – for every demographic and region of the world. The space economy has room for everyone – STEM and non-STEM — beyond astronauts and scientists, we need trade workers, artists, administrators, business entrepreneurs, project managers, data analysts, and more. Through our Workforce Development Roadmap, we are driving awareness, access, training, connections and mentorship to curious stakeholders around the globe. But we are not doing it alone. Today with advanced communication platforms, we are empowered through partnership with organizations like Women in Aerospace, Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC); UNOOSA Space4Women, World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF), WomenTech Network, and others. Our strength in numbers comes from our diverse voices, experiences, talents and treasures. Rising up for underserved demographics took courage, and that same courage is needed today with present-day role models that can break through perceptions and barriers to reach true equality, inclusion and diversity.
About Shelli Brunswick
Shelli Brunswick, COO of Space Foundation, brings a global perspective and deep
vision of the workforce development roadmap and economic opportunities available to
all people in the space economy — from a distinguished career as a space acquisition
and program management leader and Congressional Liaison for the US Air Force — to
her current role as Executive Leader of the Center for Innovation and Education, which
creates and delivers inclusive, innovative, and sustainable workforce development and
economic opportunity programs.
Brunswick’s work to champion the inclusion of underserved groups stems from staying
true to the values instilled while she was in the military — a passion to share her
journey, give back to the space community, and contribute to the development of the
next-generation workforce. She collaborates with organizations around the world to
advance the opportunities for entrepreneurs, piloting the launch of the Space
a leading role model for women in space, Brunswick was selected as the 2020 Diversity
and Inclusion Officer and Role Model of the Year by WomenTech Network.
Brunswick speaks at organizations and events around the globe to advance space
technology innovation partnerships and collaboration, chairs the Women in Aerospace
(WIA) Foundation, and hosts the Women’s Global Gathering annually at Space
Symposium. In addition, she is one of only 35 women worldwide to be selected by the
United Nations as a mentor for its Space4Women program and is a World Business
Angels Investment Forum (WBAF) Senator for the United States of America. She sits on
the Board of Directors for Manufacturer.