Tesla isn’t the only company in Elon Musk’s portfolio to have issues with sexual harassment. Women who previously worked at SpaceX, including mission engineer Ashley Cusack and four others I spoke to the edgeThey accused the company of not doing much to stop sexual harassment. The male employees reportedly made numerous unsolicited feats, lewd comments, and physical contact. Cusack alleged that one of her co-workers went so far as to visit her home and insisted on touching her, while former intern Julia Crowley Varenga (who sued SpaceX in 2020) said a male employee blocked her from hiring after she reported his controlling behaviour.
It is alleged that SpaceX has been reluctant to take significant action. While women reported incidents to SpaceX’s human resources, the company seemed more interested in keeping the company’s plans on track than dealing with harassment. HR asked Cusack to suggest solutions to sexual harassment, but there was no follow-up — and it seems that both HR chief Brian Belde and company president Gwen Shotwell were unaware of her allegations when she met them.
We asked SpaceX for comment. in an email the edge Acquired, however, Shotwell was aware of Kosak’s web article on the matter and said HR would conduct internal and independent audits of its practices. It also reiterated SpaceX’s “no-a-hole” policy and that harassment targets should report incidents to human resources or managers. Shotwell did not address fears of retaliation, though, and the news came as six other Tesla workers filed a lawsuit over allegations of sexual harassment.
All of the affected women focused on a leadership culture and company that prioritized the mission over the well-being of workers. Cusack said that Elon Musk sees engineers as “a resource to be mined,” not as people to look after. If you get into a male-dominated workforce that leaves women isolated (one likened this to a “boys club”) women may have little chance of meaningfully addressing harassment. If so, any long-term solutions may require management and policy changes, not just better implementation of existing policies.
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