Tesla isn’t the only company in Elon Musk’s portfolio to have sexual harassment issues. Women who previously worked at SpaceX, including mission engineer Ashley Kosak and four others who spoke to The Verge, have accused the company of doing little to stop sexual harassment. The male staff reportedly made numerous unwelcome advances, lewd comments and physical contact. Kosak claimed a co-worker went so far as to visit her house and insist on touching her, while former intern Julia CrowleyFarenga (who sued SpaceX in 2020) said a male employee blocked her from being hired after showing his controlling behavior. reported.
SpaceX was reportedly reluctant to take drastic action. Although the women reported incidents to SpaceX’s human resources department, the company seemed more interested in keeping the company’s plans on track than dealing with harassment. HR asked Kosak to suggest solutions to sexual harassment, but there was no follow-up — and both HR chief Brian Bjelde and company president Gwynne Shotwell were apparently unaware of her allegations when she met them.
We’ve asked SpaceX for comment. However, in an email The Verge received, Shotwell was aware of Kosak’s web essay on the matter and said HR would conduct both internal and independent audits of its practices. She also reiterated SpaceX’s “no A-hole” policy and that targets of harassment should still report incidents to HR or managers. Shotwell didn’t address the concerns about retaliation, however, and the news came just as six other Tesla employees filed a lawsuit over sexual harassment allegations.
All affected women captured the issues on a leadership and corporate culture that prioritized mission over employee wellbeing. Elon Musk sees engineers as a “resource to be mined,” Kosak said, rather than as people to care for. Add to that a predominantly male workforce that leaves women isolated (one complainant compared it to a “boys’ club”) and women may have little chance of dealing with harassment in any meaningful way. If so, long-term solutions may require management and policy changes, not just better enforcement of existing policies.
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