NASA aims to boost diversity at space agency with 2 high-ranking positions

NASA appointed Stephen Shih (left) as the agency's first diversity ambassador and Elaine Ho (right) as the next associate administrator for the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity.  (Image credit: NASA)

NASA aims to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) at the space agency with the announcement of two new hires. 

NASA appointed Steve Shih to serve as the agency's first diversity ambassador and Elaine Ho to be the next associate administrator for the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., according to a statement from the space agency. 

"Now, more than ever, NASA is leading all of humanity on an unprecedented journey of discovery, exploration and innovation," Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, said in the statement. "To be successful in our missions, diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility must continue to be at the forefront. Steve and Elaine's leadership will help NASA continue to ensure our workforce reflects all of America and to inspire partners throughout our nation — for the benefit of all humanity."

Related: Men, women and Mars: How gender diversity is key for success on the Red Planet

Shih comes from the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, which he had led since 2017. In his new role as diversity ambassador, Shih will build alliances with external partners to further NASA's DEIA initiatives. He will partner with government, the private sector, colleges and non-governmental groups to help NASA recruit and hire employees from all backgrounds and life experiences.

"Shih will build on his three decades of federal expertise and help NASA continue to enable everyone to contribute inclusively to NASA and to the United States," agency officials wrote in the statement. 

Ho brings extensive DEIA expertise to her new role in the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, having recently served as deputy associate administrator for NASA's Office of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Engagement. Ho also previously served as the chief diversity officer for the Department of Agriculture and Internal Revenue Service and has held several leadership roles in the White House. Ho will continue in her role as a senior advisor for DEIA as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, according to the NASA statement. 

Last year, NASA released its policy statement on DEIA for its workforce and work places, which aimed to "enable all NASA organizations and individuals to maintain a transcendent focus on our common goals and to reinforce our connections — empowering us to work together as a team to best achieve our missions for the benefit of all human beings." 

"At NASA, we fully embrace DEIA as a strategic enabler of our safety and mission assurance," the agency stated in the policy, which Nelson signed into action on Jan. 18, 2022. "Our commonalities unite us as a team, and our differences strengthen our capabilities, including our talent, skills, knowledge, experience, innovation, perspectives and ideas that optimize performance and mitigate groupthink, optimism and confirmation bias, complacency, normalization of deviance, and risk." 

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.