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Leadership and Space: A Conversation with Simonetta Di Pippo

The Women in Public Service Project will host the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Simonetta Di Pippo. The discussion will focus on UNOOSA’s leadership role in the space sector, the impact of equal gender representation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, and Di Pippo's own experiences as a leader in STEM. As co-founder and the President of Women in Space Europe, she is helping to establish balanced gender representation at all levels of the European space sector.

Date & Time

Oct. 17, 2016
4:30pm – 5:30pm ET


5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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On October 17, Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative at the Institute for Women Policy Research Federiga Bindi joined Director of the Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) Gwen Young to engage in a conversation about leadership with Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs. 

During this panel of women leaders, Simonetta explained how she rose through the ranks of the United Nations, as well as her plans for getting more young women involved in STEM and space exploration. 

Simonetta may be the only woman who is a Director in all of UN – Vienna, but, as she explains, she has gotten comfortable being the only woman in the room.  She went on to say that this used to be intimidating to her, but she is an expert in her field and thus there is no reason to be nervous.  This sense of confidence carries into all of the work that Di Pippo does, especially her initiatives for creating “more space for women in space.”  While Di Pippo did not have any female mentors of her own (there were no women who came before her), she continues to serve as a role model for young women in technology today. 

The rights of women are intrinsically tied with human development.  This is one of the many reasons why UNOOSA and Simonetta Di Pippo’s leadership are so important.  As Di Pippo describes, one of the revolutionary things about UNOOSA is that while there are only 83 official member states, the Office on Outer Space Affairs considers space a resource for everyone and treats it as such.  Its focus on transparency and cooperation is key in moving forward in space exploration; in fact, Di Pippo boasted proudly, every decision in UNOOSA is reached by consensus. 

Going along with this, Di Pippo explained “space technology can be a tool of achieving the SDGs.”  The Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the United Nations are key in achieving gender equality, as they allow for more opportunities in developing countries.  With an increase in understanding of space technology, there can be less strain on global resources and more opportunities for employment, to name just a couple highlights.  The achievement of the SGDs through space not only empowers women in developing countries, but people everywhere.

Simonetta de Pippo is a leader in space technology, and has shattered yet another glass ceiling for future generations of women.  Her drive for creative solutions, space exploration and women in STEM is an inspiration to women who before did not see themselves represented in such a dynamic field.

Photo credit: Flickr - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (CC BY 2.0)

Hosted By

Global Women's Leadership Initiative

The Global Women’s Leadership Initiative has hosted the Women in Public Service Project at the Wilson Center since June, 2012. The Women in Public Service Project will accelerate global progress towards women’s equal participation in policy and political leadership to create more dynamic and inclusive institutions that leverage the full potential of the world’s population to change the way global solutions are forged.  Read more

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