UBS says NASA's all-women spacewalk is a 'giant leap' with 'significant investment implications'

At the end of March a team of five women will break barriers in space, an event investment bank UBS thinks is more than symbolic: It’s pivotal to investors.

UBS pointed to research that gender equality “will have major economic implications,” the bank said. Narrowing the gap between the percentage of men and women participating in the global labor force could add $ 12 trillion to the world’s GDP in the next six years, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

Additionally, UBS found that companies where women make up at least 20 percent of either the board of directors or senior management “were more profitable than their less gender diverse peers on several metrics,” the firm said.

The spacewalk on March 29 is being done to replace batteries on the outside of the International Space Station. NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will be performing the EVA (extravehicular activity). Back on Earth, flight director Mary Lawrence and flight controllers Kristen Facciol and Jackie Kagey will guide the pair of astronauts. Facciol first announced the all female spacewalk with a tweet on Mar. 1.

“We are at a pivotal time in space exploration,” UBS said.

UBS pointed to advancements by SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic as “important catalysts for the space economy.” Analyst Carl Berrisford said in a note in November that, while traditional contractors will continue to grow, “the key growth catalyst for the space industry in the last two decades has come from the private sector.”

Gwynne Shotwell, the president and COO of SpaceX, told CNBC in May that she hopes to inspire women to join space companies. When she was a teenager, Shotwell met a woman working as a female mechanical engineer. That woman became her role model and is the reason Shotwell now runs the day-to-day operations of one of the most valuable private companies in the world.

“I think it’s important to be as public as I can afford to be and to hopefully inspire women to join me in this incredible field,” Shotwell said.

Last month, Virgin Galactic sent chief astronaut trainer Beth Moses as the company’s first spaceflight test passenger. Beyond the commercial achievement, Moses became the first woman to fly in space on a U.S. commercial spacecraft.

“Today was the fulfillment of a personal lifelong ambition,” Moses told CNBC. “But more so, it was the start of something great for all of humanity – ourselves and other commercial companies, we are aiming to take people off the planet.”

She added that “aerospace is open to all professions.” The space industry and the companies within it “need all professions, not just engineers or pilots or astronauts,” Moses said.

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