Diverse Work Force Brings Success to KSC
Disability Awareness and Action Working Group event

Former Center Director Roy Bridges stops to pet one of the dogs that serves with Canine Companions for Independence, a vendor displaying the dogs' capabilities at the Disability Awareness and Action Working Group's 1999 Technology Fair at Kennedy Space Center. Image credit: NASA
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Erin Parrish receives the Evelyn Johnson Scholarship.

At Kennedy Space Center's annual Black Employee Strategy Team's African-American History Month luncheon, Erin Parrish, left, displays a plaque she received from Elaine Johnson that names her the recipient of the Evelyn Johnson Scholarship in 2006. Image credit: NASA
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The House Committee on Science and Technology in Washington, D.C., held a hearing July 30 to celebrate NASA's 50th Anniversary by reviewing its accomplishments and examining its future opportunities and challenges.

Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall said, "I think we owe a debt of appreciation to all the men and women of NASA, its contractors, and the universities and research institutions that have made it all possible."

Achievements at Kennedy Space Center happen because of a superior work force characterized by its diversity.

The diversity of Kennedy's work force includes job titles, culture, ethnicity, gender and disabilities.

As Kennedy's Space Shuttle Program and Launch Services Program matured, its work force expanded. In 1968, Kennedy had more than 25,000 employees, 2,921 of which were NASA civil servants. Kennedy's work force now numbers around 14,950. That includes 2,197 civil servants and students, and 10,937 contractor employees.

Ten years ago, there were 1,985 civil servants at Kennedy:

61 percent in scientific and engineering positions, 21 percent in professional administration, nearly 10 percent in technical support and eight percent in clerical.

Of the 2,197 civil servants in 2007, 62 percent were scientific and engineering, 27 percent administration, 7 percent technical and 4 percent clerical.

In 1983, minorities made up less than 10 percent of the civil servant work force. That increased to more than 17 percent between 1995 and 1996. In 2007, minorities made up 23 percent of NASA's civil servants.

Reinforcing Kennedy's diversity goals are more than eight affinity groups and professional organizations that seek to improve working conditions and opportunities at the center. They provide networking and mentoring opportunities for career development and also seek to diminish any barriers that might prohibit that development.

The Black Employee Strategy Team, or BEST, is an organization of the center's African-American employees.

Wanda Harding, mission manager of the Flight Projects Office of the Launch Services Program, said, "BEST represents a voice of conscience that the opportunities for African-Americans to serve across all levels of responsibility and leadership at KSC remain uncompromised. BEST is therefore not only interested in keeping the pipeline populated, but in the growth and development of those employees to remain competitive and ready to serve at the highest levels." Harding is a member of the BEST Steering Committee. In 1989, the National Society of Women Engineers or SWE, chartered the Space Coast Section in Florida for women engineers in the Brevard, Indian River and Volusia Counties. Kennedy provided 25 of the charter members for Florida’s Space Coast Section.

SWE's mission is to inform the community of opportunities open to women in engineering and encourage women to enter and grow in engineering and the sciences. Of the 143 members in the section, 58 are from Kennedy. Seven of the charter members remain active: Kathleen F. Harer, Judith A. Kersey, Merri Anne Stowe, Charlotte L. Ort, Joan M. Wenaas, Katherine M. Gay and Monique P. Butler.

SWE gives awards to deserving women engineers annually, such as Outstanding Woman Engineer of the Year, the Distinguished New Engineer of the Year and Woman Engineer Technical Achievement. Since 2003, the society has recognized 18 women, eight awards going to Kennedy employees.

Susan Floyd, a senior manager in Systems Engineering with Florida Space Shuttle Operations, has been a member of SWE for 10 years. Inspired by a joint SWE-University of Central Florida conference in Orlando to bring awareness of career choices in math and science to high school girls, Floyd decided to work in SWE to bring similar exposure to Brevard County and include girls in third through ninth grades.

Floyd says a benefit of SWE involvement is how "management looked at me differently – they considered it important to work in SWE and appreciated how active I was at both the local and national level." She adds, "I enjoy the ability to network with other women in SWE for personal and professional reasons."

The Disability Awareness and Action Working Group, known as DAAWG, is an advocate for hiring individuals with disabilities and disabled veterans. DAAWG enhances awareness of their capabilities and value throughout the center, removing barriers that hinder employees from working at their full potential, and providing a forum for discussion and resolution of issues concerning people with disabilities.

The group hosts a special event annually, frequently including vendors demonstrating mobility, hearing, vision and silent disability assistive technology that assist people with various disabilities in the workplace.
Anita Barrett
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center