NASA recently completed its first all-female spacewalk on Oct. 18 with Christina Koch and Jessica Meir spending five-and-a-half hours replacing a battery component on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS).
It was a historic event and hopefully it will pave the way for more all-female spacewalks on the ISS in the coming decades. Along with making history, Koch and Meir's accomplishment can also teach us some lessons about business.
1. Sometimes you have to change the system before you can reach your goals.
The first woman to perform a spacewalk was Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya in 1984. Koch and Meir were the 14th and 15th women to do it (compared to dozens of men who have performed the vast majority of the 200-plus spacewalks on the ISS). The reason there hasn't been an all-female spacewalk prior to this year had more to do with a lack of equipment than anything else.
Back in March of this year, there was supposed to be an all-female spacewalk, but there was a lack of spacewalk-ready suits in the required sizes to accommodate the two women who were to perform it.
Much of that has to do with budget cuts to NASA forcing the agency to abandon its plan to have a variety of sizes for people, according to an article in The Atlantic.
But, with more female astronauts than ever before, NASA is having to redesign its spacesuits, which were all designed in the 1970s and haven't been updated since. Koch and Meir still had to use the suits designed 40-plus years ago, but NASA is in the process of redesigning its suits to accommodate people of all sizes.
Back when the company my wife and I founded started selling instant drug and general health tests online, there were very few people who really considered that to be a viable way to purchase these types of tests. But, we saw a gap in the market and took a chance by selling a product that wasn't normally associated with online sales and now we're growing by (zero-gravity) leaps and bounds. Sometimes you just have to push through change yourself.
2. Change can be frustratingly slow.
As mentioned above, Koch and Meir were only the 14th and 15th women to perform a spacewalk compared to dozens of different men over the past few decades. And while a lot of that has to do with the aforementioned suits, there is still some leftover backwards thinking about women's physical capabilities within NASA.
Acting associate administrator for NASA's division of human exploration and operations Ken Bowersox told reporters at a press conference after Koch and Meir's spacewalk that sometimes women's bodies are not physically suited to spacewalks. He compared it to himself being too short to play in the NBA.
It's disappointing, but not wholly surprising to hear sentiments like this considering that space flight itself was once the sole domain of men.
Although my wife and I started our company together, I started out as CEO and then handed the reigns over to her and she grew the company beyond what either of us had even hoped for. (We've both since taken on advisor roles since we hired an executive team). We're proud that our company was a woman-run business for a large portion of its history and we hope it acts as an example for any women thinking of opening a business.
3. You can inspire the next generation of business people.
Whether it's inspiring more women to get into business or inspiring the next generation to make their businesses more environmentally friendly or being inspiring in some other way, you can encourage future business leaders like how Koch and Meir inspired the next generation of potential astronauts.
One Hudson Valley, New York teacher shared via Twitter just how amazing the spacewalk was for her first grade class.
While it's hard to top a spacewalk for inspiration, we like to think that our multiple regional and national wins for "Best Place to Work" is inspiring for employees, customers and business partners. We're showing them what a best place to work looks like and giving them something to emulate as they strive to be a great workplace.
It may have taken a few decades to push through the change in thinking that requires true cultural evolution, but Koch and Meir's feat will continue to affect positive change for a long time and gives us all lessons we can learn from.