Women in Space

Automatic Summary

Breaking Barriers: A Woman's Journey in Science and Technology

In a field largely dominated by men, one woman’s story stands out. Navigating through the technical world from a young age, she has broken barriers and emerged victorious. This blog article narrates her extraordinary journey and will inspire many others to take up challenges, and foster their curiosity in scientific explorations.

Early Life and Fascination with Space

From a very young age, her interests differed from that of traditional girls’. Instead of playing with dolls, she found the world of space more appealing, fascinated with trains, planes, and everything related to technology. Her parents played a crucial role in encouraging her non-traditional interests, and showed an unwavering support throughout her journey.

As she narrates, she was attracted to challenges that placed her body in uncomfortable situations - giving birth to her love for climbing, cold weather, and getting into the sea. The joy of being somewhere where others wouldn't dare go became a part of her personality and etched her path towards space exploration.

The Academic Path: Physics and Engineering

Her academic journey began with a Master’s degree in Physics from the University of Brussels. Reflecting on her time at the University, she recalls being one of the only five girls in a group of eighty students. This stark gender disparity in technical fields is something she thought deeply about, even discussing the barriers that prevent girls from choosing directions like Physics and Maths with her sociologist sister.

The question remains as to why these disparities exist even today when efforts are being taken to promote gender equality. However, she remained undeterred and kept pushing forward – advocating for more women in STEM fields.

Professional Journey: European Space Agency to Self-Employment

She started her career in the space industry by working for the European Space Agency, where she became an astronaut instructor. always dreaming of being able to go to space herself. Despite being close to achieving her goal, professional frustrations and the desire to explore other aspects of her personality led her to make a life-changing decision.

At the age of 30, she went through what she calls an "identity crisis". She decided to change the course of her life and became a mountain guide. She embraced the transition and embarked on a journey of self-exploration and understanding what truly drives her life.

Eventually, blending her technical knowledge and newfound self-understanding, she became self-employed and founded the company "Another Way". This venture combined space technology with coaching, providing services in sales leadership, team communication, and market research.

Championing for Women in Science and Technology

Despite the strides she made in the industry, the issue of gender disparity was always on her mind. She believes it's crucial to have more women in fields like artificial intelligence, as these fields currently dominated by men, have significant real-world implications. Her goal is to shatter the misconceptions about women functioning in the world of science and technology and inspire more women to join these fields.

She concluded her talk on a hopeful note - expressing her continued interest in space exploration and the possibility of applying for the astronaut program again, despite the challenges it could present as a mother of two.

From the European Space Agency to founding her own company, she has proved that passion and determination can take you places, regardless of gender or field of interest. Her journey is a testament to dreaming, planning, and living your life the way you envision it.

Video Transcription

Uh just uh maybe a little presentation uh of my um yeah, my bio uh it's maybe not very common. Um So it's gonna be a, a small history, a little bit. Uh I didn't want to make it too technical.Uh I really wanted to explain a little bit uh how, how I moved to uh towards this men uh men's world. In fact. So when I was a kid since I was a kid, I never played with dolls. I always uh I always was attracted um by um space. Um OK, my father took me to go and see the planes to see me to see trains, et cetera. So probably also there was a little bit of uh the thing about my father, my mother, they were like, you know, 68 ers. So um they were maybe a little bit feminist. I said my, my girl uh needs to be doing something in techniques. So they, they did. So um I also uh yeah, always have been, I'm half Austrian, half Belgium. So I always have been attracted also by the sea and the mountains really. Um I felt since the beginning I like to put my body in situations which are not comfortable. Uh That was always very important. Uh So climbing um uh getting into the sea, I like cold weather. I was always uh looking for this challenge and very proud of being uh somewhere when other people did not go.

So there was a little bit of a red line also with uh with space exploration uh very soon and it started in 98. So back then I was 16. Uh I um I have been sent all alone with big plane to uh to uh to America uh to uh to follow some first. OK. This, these are our kids stuff but uh uh it's a, it's a space camp. So when you come from a country like Belgium or uh and you go all alone uh uh with, with a plane to America and you, and you do this course. Um this was a little bit uh the, the, this was really something that made already the difference. I had the chance to be really uh supported by my parents. Um But also from um the Belgium uh scientific uh delegation. Um Somehow they, they, they really uh they knew about this. Um And they always offered me the possibility to go a little bit further uh uh in this endeavor at the time when you're a kid, you don't know really the difference between men and women. You don't feel it the first real difference started when I went to university. Um, so, uh, what did I study? I studied first physics at the University of Brussels. Uh, got a master in physics there. This was very interesting because we started, we were 8080 students.

The first year we ended up, uh, 16, uh, in the first year we were maybe five girls, uh, sitting there on the benches. Um, already it was something that somehow never really attracted women. And I had a discussion recently with my sister, she's a sociologist. And we were really thinking about, I, I talked about um the fact that II I want to educate my girls because I also have two girls. I want to educate them into stem and to really push it. And now, um I, I feel they are interested but we were really looking at studies about the fact that how does it come? Is there something even genetic that makes girls even if there is a lot of promotion going on? Why don't they really choose these directions is what, what is really this barrier that makes already the difference? Even though there are a lot of people that are promoting or not promoting this difference? Why do we still have so many men in the engineering world, in the science world? Uh compared not, not our science world, but like physics and maths. Why is it more something where we find men and not, we couldn't find the really the um the answer to that. So it's still going to be a research I'm gonna do because it's really something that takes it to the heart. I really want to promote women doing still and doing uh doing that kind of things.

Because if we don't do it today, then at the end when everything will be like uh with artificial intelligence, we have to imagine all these codes are going to be created by men and this is not OK because the men do not think like we do. So, I mean, with all respect for the men, of course, but um we really need to have women there and, and we all can do it. Uh And I know some, some, some girls sometimes I'm afraid, oh, I'm not gonna be able to combine this with being a mother having kids. And so, but maybe this is why I can give some advice, be an example, sometimes inspire people because I, I do everything with my girls and I still work in a men's world. So um I, I think this is, this is a fake. Uh It's, it's a false image that we have about women uh in that industry. Uh So um yeah, I worked uh in the beginning at the European Space Agency. Um And I really, really, really got very close to my goal. So it was never easy. So you don't study to become an astronaut. You, you have to study uh you, you, you have to, to follow, to do together as much as possible. Uh information or knowledge that you can towards one goal, knowing that there is not one path. So I studied physics engineering.

I did this MB A and I worked at the European Space Agency. But in the beginning, I worked like for Earth Observation, which was completely not what it was exciting me because I was excited by being, by going to space by being sitting in these rockets and going to the moon on Mars. I wanted to be the first woman on Mars. Um So it was really my drive. So you try, you try, you, you, there is no, not one path. So I, when I worked there, um the, the, the closest I got in fact and became an astronaut instructor, which was somehow very nice, but also very frustrating because I was sitting on the other side of the bench. Uh I would have loved to be sitting on the other side. I even had been at the time. Um That was when I was 29. Um I went to and, and uh I, I got as a reserve but then for political reasons. Uh Well, and so sorry for that, I have still another slide. I was working also on uh missions to Mars and which was great because I, I could be very um uh creative uh uh I could imagine things.

How would we um you know, uh it was really a study about habitability and gonna make how we would uh fill in uh how we would arrange the rocket or the spaceship. Would we have one room for everybody or we have everybody uh a small place for themselves sitting there? Um So it, it was quite interesting though. It was very, very, very um I would say still a dream was not very um hands on activity. It was a study, it was creative, it was imaging. Uh we did not have a European space agency. This uh kind of guts I would say that uh they have in the States with Elon Musk. So someone who really takes the dream and changes it uh instantly into, into reality. Uh This, I think is also a difference between a European Space Agency and um I mean, the European approach and the American approach of, of uh space um uh space endeavor. Um But still, it gave me that, of course, a lot of freedom to, to keep on dreaming. Um because yeah, you may have it already understood it. Uh I'm, I'm a big dreamer, probably a very big idealist. So that's why when I was a candidate astronaut at a certain point, there was a big crash in 2003.

I unfortunately, uh not, unfortunately, it was a very well uh uh thought uh decision I stepped out of the program stepped out of the program because I realized that um uh I I had a moment of less naive this idea. I realized that my, my place would probably be only free when I would be 49. And then in the meantime, I would have been sitting behind a computer on a chair waiting for something that most probably would not happen because by then there would be other people that would be fitter keeping, uh fitter younger and et cetera. So I left everything and um yeah, to the great disappointment at the time of my parents, I decided to become a mountain guide, middle mountain guide. So I left the mountains and I did that. Now, a lot of people would say what has that to do indeed. Uh I understand your parents if you are like an engineer and then you start giving a ski lessons in order to, to pay your studies to become a mountain guide. That's crazy. Yeah, understandable. But somehow I also combined this with a lot, a lot of uh introspection and um coaching and uh uh like, for example, you know, the things like M BT I A uh Stephen Covey, uh the, the habits of effective people.

I did that in order to understand really, what was it? Because somehow it was a little bit an identity crisis I faced when I was 30 because since I was a child, everybody called me the astronaut and everybody knew I wanted that my grandfather uh who, who died, he was like, you know, eating this, this, this, this protein shakes kind of thing.

And he said this is astronaut food like you will have there up there. So it was really an identity. Um So I, I it was really a difficult time and I understood that also what was really the trigger? Um I, I didn't want to become an aerospace engineer just to, to create uh like uh engines or valves of a rocket. Uh What I really wanted to is to, it's a little bit the competition drive as well, probably me as well to go somewhere where other people do not go. It was to, to put myself again uh in a challenging environment and come back with something to tell. I like, I, I really like to, to, to have something to tell to people. I like to, to talk to people and, and just just, you know, tell the story and maybe it hits something in someone's mind and you, you know, you have contributed to making things move uh with this person. Um So I really, this, this time, these two years of really intense uh I would say break with my previous life, um really gave me the opportunity to think about who I am and understand who uh how I work. What is really my drive in my life.

And I decided that then then to become um self employed and do what I like to do where I'm good at. So I became self employed and uh uh I, I combined a little bit like, you know, uh I created this company that is called another way. That's my company and the, the, the motive of it is like Dreaming Planet Live. So I really said, ok, if you want to do something, OK, you plan to do it. You, you have a plan, you go for it and you try to live it. Maybe go it, it, it, it's, you succeed, maybe you fail. If you fail, you take your, your, your learning from there and you, and you go on. So um with this company, what what what I did here? Sorry. Uh is that I could uh I, I do and I still do because it's still my management company. I do a lot of um coaching to companies about sales leadership team communication and that's kind of stuff which I learned also from the astronaut trainings. I also did a lot of market research still for the European Space Agency because somehow if you learn so much in the beginning in the at school and you in and, and you go to university, you can't at the end face completely ignore it. And I, I missed the the trigger of intellectual aspects and uh research and, and being involved with technology. So I, I did some market research.

I became a satellite communication consultant with two for the people that were a little bit of the kind of uh same uh DNA type. So they also um left the, the classical way of, of working. But um and they were men. Um they accepted me on the team and together we uh did a lot of market studies for the satellite communication industry. And from these studies, we created a company that uh uh is now a full existing company. It's at A DS L. Um So I'm co-founder of that company. Um uh My role there is the to the CEO O So dealing with operations and also public relations. Why public relations is very simple because there are many uh there are not a lot of women and the men that are there, the engineers, technical scientists. And so um they, they don't, they don't bother with that. They, they don't want to have things need, et cetera and we will come back to, to this uh to this aspect. Um So, in fact, what, what we are doing very quickly is that we are, we are striving to become the booking.com of satellite um uh connectivity, meaning of IP connectivity.

So we are in fact aggregating a lot of uh operators and IP connectivity providers on one platform um which we have fully created. So somehow uh the company now we have 25 people working for us. We exist now for 10 years. Exactly. Um So it's not a start up anymore, but still the, the, the mindset of the start up because we really are um very uh flexible and um maybe a little bit too much, to be honest, we are still a little bit too much dreamers, uh and free free wheelers. Uh So we need to put some structures and procedures in place. We are fully aware of that. Um Maybe I probably, I'm not the best to do this because I, I like to, to create things. Uh And once it becomes a little bit too uh too much following a procedure, I, I start to get bored but we have great people to do this and great colleagues. Um So uh this, this company, we, we work with a lot of companies. Uh It's really very nice. We are an international based company and really, really proud of having achieved that, which has something to do with space, but I'm still not in space. Uh So, will I ever go there now, to be honest between you and me, um There is again a opening uh for um astronauts in um in Europe. Um It's absolutely not the same as in the States.

Uh uh Here they have opened it and up to 50 years. I'm 46. So well, I did it, I just did it because um I would not like to be facing like um you know, to say I, I'm II I need to do it. Otherwise I would say, OK, I had the chance and I didn't participate. So that's a little bit, um, that's a little bit of pity. So I, I did it, uh, actually I pushed the button yesterday so it's very fresh. Uh, we'll see what happens. I don't know if I still want to do it. Uh, really, because I, I really want to go. But the, the, the, I would say the, the reference changes because now I have two kids and seven and nine and I don't know if I'm ready now um to leave them alone for, for one, for one year. So uh um well, I I, yeah, it's a, it's still a dream and I'm really uh very um following this very narrowly. Um So what we did with Sae Ds L is also, this is a typical example of things we do. We provide connectivity in small villages in Africa and those little people you see here on the picture, they are very happy because they, they got the internet in the small village in order to have a decent lessons uh provided by a professor that is in, in the capital.

So uh that's very um that's really a nice project. It's, it is, it is a technical and scientific world of men. But as you see, you still have a lot of um emotion as

well. Caroline, fantastic presentation. Congrats on this recent recognition, did a fantastic job. I really love that you said like the most of your company dream, it, plan it live, it, I think a great take away of your talk. And I think you did masterfully with the slides that you prepared the energies that you really enjoyed this talk today. Thank you so much for tuning in and joining us as a speaker. Stay with us. People shared that Anusha shared that it was one of her favorite talks actually, just so you know, the network and I'm sure many people would love to connect with you. It was a pleasure to have you with us on this stage. Ok. Thank