Diversity and inclusiveness are at the heart of the ESA’s values and are high on the ESA Agenda 2025 as key elements to complete the ESA Transformation. Eight steps, aimed at advancing these values as concrete initiatives, will pave the way for continuous improvement.

The strategic challenge to focus on diversity and inclusiveness will contribute to strengthening innovation, lessening resistance to change, boosting motivation, inspiring people and fostering knowledge sharing. Our final aim is to embed a real and sustainable change in our agency’s fabric, and to make the values of diversity and inclusiveness an integral part of our culture.

Ensuring that the ESA workforce can represent a competent and diverse pool of talents has been identified as a priority by the ESA Member States and is seen as an essential factor for success. To keep on attracting and retaining the ‘best and the brightest’, we must reinforce our efforts to reach out to a wider community and ensure a working environment where different perspectives are welcome and valued, as one of our agency’s most important assets.   

Beyond geographical diversity – which has always been a major asset and a foundational priority of ESA, where concrete actions and initiatives have been long-established – we commit to ‘Eight Steps Forward’ to specifically address the areas of gender, generation, disabilities and identity. These priorities will be reviewed regularly and enlarged to include other aspects of diversity, to make sure that they reflect ESA’s long-term vision.

Share of women recruited by ESA each year
Share of women recruited by ESA each year

Gender balance is one of the main areas of interest for us and dedicated initiatives have contributed to achieve several tangible improvements. The percentage of female staff at ESA has risen systematically over the last five years, currently standing at 29%. We should also mention progress on the gender representation in leadership positions: in 2021, the share of women in top management positions reached a record level of 17%, a significant increase considering a value of 8% in 2016.

This trend of increased female representation at all levels should be sustained towards the objective of a gender-balanced workforce. ESA has set a target of ensuring that 40% of new recruits annually are women, along with actions to ensure gender diversity in evaluation panels and using gender-inclusive language. We will also tackle the gender balance in the organisation of panels at conferences and events.

Average age of recruitment at ESA
Average age of recruitment at ESA

Another goal is to improve generational diversity and thus decrease the workforce’s average age, which today is 49.2 years. This requires becoming a more attractive employer to young generations, and great attention will be placed in reviewing the working conditions of the Young Graduate Trainee and Research Fellow programmes. The recently implemented Junior Professional Programme is also an effective tool to support the rejuvenation of the workforce.

The recruitment of people with a disability is also a specific goal that requires dedicated actions, including partnerships with universities and relevant organisations, and will be facilitated by the adoption of new digital tools and technologies as well as the removal of physical barriers impacting the accessibility of ESA workplaces. Concretely, we have also started the ‘Parastronaut’ project to shed light on the many unknowns and clarify the prerequisites for a safe and useful space mission of an astronaut with a physical disability.

ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher
ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher

The benefits of diversity can only be unleashed by ensuring a work environment that actively encourage inclusion. Everyone should feel seen, valued and understood as an individual with a unique identity, skills and experience. Creating an inclusive workplace culture and environment enables diverse employees to experience equality and thrive, and increases employee engagement.

ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said, “An agency can only be as strong as its people and ESA greatest asset is its diverse workforce, united in endeavour. Diversity has always been at the core of the ESA’s strength and values.

“Since its inception in 1975, ESA has been home to people from many states, benefiting from the great diversity of their competences, cultures and experiences. The bringing together of different perspectives and ideas is an asset, and one of ESA’s greatest features as a source of inspiration, enrichment and innovation.”

Diversity & inclusiveness: eight steps forward

  • STEP 1. Aim to have at least 40% recruitment of women by 2025, in support of an equally balanced overall gender representation
  • STEP 2. Make ESA’s commitment to a gender-balanced workforce visible
  • STEP 3. Strive to ensure gender diversity in evaluation panels and in other relevant advisory bodies, such as conferences, boards, and expert groups
  • STEP 4. Increase the number of new recruits with disabilities
  • STEP 5. Remove physical barriers
  • STEP 6. Ensure a work environment where staff can be comfortable and confident about their identity
  • STEP 7. Strive to reduce the average age of recruitment at ESA
  • STEP 8. Secure the leadership team’s support for enhancing diversity & inclusiveness at the workplace and ensure that they communicate internally and externally ESA’s commitment to progress

ESA also photos