Space4Women Mentor Project Spotlight: "The Brooke Owens Fellowship"
By Cassie Lee with Brooke Owens Fellowship Alumnae Sasha Warren, Kryn Ambs, Kaitlin Engelbert, Amy Huynh, Katie Melbourne, Rowan Palmer, Luc Riesbeck, Rikhi Roy, Neha Sangana, and Victoria Woodburn
As a dedicated advocate for women in aerospace, I am honored to serve as a Space4Women Network Mentor. My work with this program dovetails with my role as a co-founder of the Brooke Owens Fellowship. Founded in 2016, the Brooke Owens Fellowship provides paid summer internships, executive mentorship, and a professional Summit designed to inspire and uplift undergraduate women and gender minorities passionate about aerospace. To date, the Fellowship has been honored to welcome 154 Fellows, over 50 Host Institutions and dozens of industry Mentors into a community that is dedicated to meaningful change in the aerospace industry.
There is no lack of anecdotal evidence on the benefits of the Brooke Owens Fellowship nor is there a lack of data behind the benefits of diversity in business to unequivocally support the Fellowship's mission. According to a report by McKinsey , "Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians." Unfortunately, many gender minority students drop out along the school-to-work pipeline, especially at the point of finishing their undergraduate degree. One of the key reasons for this is a lack of representation at higher levels in the aerospace industry. This perpetuates the cycle of homogeneity in the workplace, which in turn exacerbates "leaks" in the pipeline. The Brooke Owens Fellowship aims to interrupt this leaky pipeline problem by specifically targeting undergraduate students--in any discipline and at any institution--to provide encouragement, opportunities, and community at a key stage in their education and early career.
We have also found that mentorship within and outside of the Fellowship is another indispensable means of diversifying the aerospace industry. The “pay it forward” ethos of the Fellowship encourages Fellows to take the lessons they learn from their internships and industry mentors to themselves become mentors for not only future Fellows but also their peers and communities.
Despite our early success, the Fellowship is continuously evolving to become more inclusive and innovative in order to maximize our positive impact. Our actions take many forms, from an annual Diversity Report that measures each step of our application cycle in order to inform revisions to our application and application process, minority focus groups that provide safe spaces for our BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of color) communities, and a diverse Leadership Team that includes alumnae who guide change through their firsthand experience as a Fellow. The Fellowship also embraces opportunities for inclusion beyond the United States (US), encouraging international applicants and creating programs that enable international students to connect with a growing network of aerospace professionals, companies, and opportunities that are notoriously difficult to access in an industry that is often restricted to US citizens.
The Brooke Owens Fellowship strives to demonstrate to underrepresented students around the world that their contributions are not only valued but necessary. Applications are now open for the Class of 2021. To apply, please visit our website: www.brookeowensfellowship.org
 McKinsey & Company. (2015). Why diversity matters. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters