Pursuing Gender Parity

Here, Caroline Adombi from Côte d'Ivoire, who works in the IAEA/FAO Joint Division on Food and Agriculture, examines "Peste des Petits Ruminants", a contagious disease that affects goats and sheep in Africa. (Photo: J. Perez-Vargas/IAEA)

The IAEA receives between 15 000 and 20 000 applications every year for jobs in the professional category. About a quarter of these applications are from women. Therefore it's understandably difficult for the Agency to reach gender parity and achieve the UN target that foresees women employed in half of all professional jobs.

Currently, less than 24% of IAEA professional staff are women. To address the imbalance, the IAEA focuses on finding qualified women and persuading them to apply. This is done through a variety of programmes, including working with Member State Points of Contact who are dedicated to promoting job opportunities to women, as well as the IAEA talent acquisition programme, which specifically targets women for supervisory positions - like heads of sections or directors.

"We have a staff member dedicated to going out and finding people for senior-level positions, and to finding women in particular. We send targeted emails to people asking them either to apply or to pass the vacancy notice on to their colleagues who may want to apply," says Catherine Monzel, Head of IAEA Recruitment and Staff Development.

As of 2011, the IAEA has 30 male directors and 8 female. This is a significant step forward since the ratio used to be 35 men to 4 women in 2001.

The Road Ahead

Despite such successes, one significant difficulty remains - the diminishing pool of people with scientific and technical knowledge particularly in the nuclear industry.

"The situation for women is considerably more dire than for men," says Monzel.

Apart from supporting the efforts of organizations that encourage young girls to take an interest in science, the IAEA is engaging in outreach efforts to educate people about the work of the Agency; work that often has nothing to do with nuclear safeguards and ensuring that States use nuclear science for peaceful rather than military purposes.

The IAEA works in areas as varied as human health, water management, agriculture, cancer control and energy generation.

The Agency is also focusing on retaining the women who are hired by trying to make sure that they find it a fruitful and comfortable place to work. "There are programmes like maternity leave, flexible work hours, and use of the childcare centre for example. We make sure that managers understand that staff members, especially women, need to be able to take advantage of these policies. And we need to make sure that - for all staff, but for women in particular - that this is a safe work environment where they feel comfortable," says Monzel.

Last update: 14 November 2014