Former engineer accusing SpaceX of tolerating harassment says she was inspired by Blue Origin employees’ decision to speak out

December 14, 2021, 2:04 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! USA Gymnastics settles with Larry Nassar victims, Democrats rush to save the child tax credit, and a former employee says she was repeatedly sexually harassed at Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Have a productive Tuesday.

– Speaking up alone, together. It’s been three months since a group of former employees wrote an open letter about what they called a sexist, toxic work environment at Jeff Bezos’s commercial spaceflight company, Blue Origin. (At the time, the company said it “has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind.”) Their decision to speak out inspired at least one other person to take action: Ashley Kosak, a former engineer at Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

In her own letter published this morning (on the website of the firm Lioness, like the Blue Origin piece), Kosak writes that she experienced and witnessed sexual harassment at SpaceX from the time she started as an intern in 2017 until her resignation as a full-time engineer last month. She says she met with human resources or management at least four times about these concerns, to little effect. Ultimately, her efforts to punish or change these behaviors led to the deterioration of her own mental health; she resigned after suffering panic attacks this fall. (SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment about the allegations.)

I spoke to Kosak last night, hours before her letter published early Tuesday morning. “It’s a bros’ club,” is how she describes the culture at SpaceX. “If you’re able to be part of the social atmosphere, it’s really helpful for your career. But if you’re a woman, you’re only seen as a potential dating option.”

Perhaps some of this is not that surprising in an incredibly male-dominated industry like aerospace and at a company whose founder is known for posting flippant remarks about serious issues on Twitter (you can read more details about the allegations in my story here). But unsurprising is not the same thing as acceptable, and Kosak hopes that by speaking up, other women will also be compelled to advocate for their own safety at work.

Kosak, like Blue Origin’s ex-employees before her, is part of a growing trend: workers successfully learning how to amplify their voices, so their perspectives are heard not just in lawsuits and behind closed doors, but in public alongside the voices of their powerful CEOs.

Emma Hinchliffe

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


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"People need to feel love and not shame."

-Sandra Lindsay, the New York nurse who was the first person in the U.S. to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020, on her advice for getting people vaccinated

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