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Bringing More Women to Nuclear – Human Resource Strategies for Gender Equality in Nuclear Organizations


Panellists at the side event discussion shared international practices on human resources strategies for gender equality in the nuclear field. (Photo: Z. Liu/IAEA)

Increasing the number of women pursuing careers in nuclear fields, and building human resource strategies to create inclusive talent development in nuclear organizations, were the key topics under the spotlight at a panel discussion held today alongside the 66th IAEA General Conference.

“Diversity, including gender diversity, is beneficial for innovation, and bringing together their varied experiences and world views, diverse teams are better able to understand problems and find solutions," said panellist Margaret Doane, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Management. "Building a workforce that is diverse and motivated takes leadership, commitment, time and effort. It is definitely worth all that, as the staff is the single most important asset any nuclear organization has,” she said. Doane emphasized the importance of creating an equal, diverse and inclusive workforce to fuel development in nuclear, and highlighted the need for the nuclear workforce to be representative of the societies in which it operates and with whom it engages.

IAEA staff and international experts from non-profit organizations and private sectors joined the event panel discussion. They discussed ways of attracting more women to careers in the nuclear field, including building talent outreach strategies, developing global partnerships as well as changing the narrative about the nuclear field.

“Increasing gender equity in our nuclear organizations brings diversity in perspectives, which will undoubtedly improve the quality of our technical solutions and decisions,” said Wendy Anyster, Organisational Psychologist at Leadershipvine Ltd. “Achieving success requires not only a change in our human resource practices but also our ability to create an inclusive culture where we respond with curiosity and appreciation when diverse opinions, views and ideas are voiced.”

Callum Thomas, CEO at Thomas Thor Associates – a company dedicated to building and sustaining the global nuclear workforce – shared outreach and recruitment practices on enhancing the representation of women in nuclear organizations. “To make meaningful progress towards gender equality in the nuclear industry, we need a huge increase in the time, effort and funding invested, as well as senior leaders to be held accountable for results,” he said.

Women comprise less than a quarter of professionals working in the nuclear sector globally, particularly in senior roles. This gender gap harms the sector as diversity opens more opportunities and brings more talents, said Dominique Mouillot, President of the Women in Nuclear (WiN) Global.

Highlighting the value of WiN Global, Mouillot said: “Networks, such as WiN, play an indispensable role not only in raising awareness about women’s contributions in the nuclear field, but also in helping women to connect with each other, including mentors, which advances their careers.”

Lena Andriolo, President of the International Youth Nuclear Congress, spoke about the importance of engaging with the young generation. “Succeeding in driving the world to the new era of nuclear technology can only be possible by incorporating talents with different perspectives, interests, passions, skill sets and ways of approaching problems. Diversity makes our field exceptional and reaching gender equality is key to its success,” she said. Andriolo also urged young people working in the nuclear industry and students to take part in the IYNC survey intended to measure what is important to them as future nuclear workforce.

Moderating the event, Pedro Dieguez Porras, IAEA Technical Lead in Management and Capacity Building, highlighted the importance of “commitment, equitable organizational policies and practices, and an aligned human resources strategy" in attracting, developing and retaining female talent.

Gender parity at the IAEA

The IAEA is taking active steps to help create workplaces that enable both women and men to reach their full potential. Peter Frobel, Director of the IAEA Division of Human Resources continued the conversation by sharing practical examples of IAEA’s best practices. “At the IAEA, we’re committed to gender equality and to supporting the ability of all individuals, regardless of gender, to equally contribute to and benefit from our programmes and activities,” he said. “To support these goals, the Agency has a gender equality policy and biennial gender action plans.” 

Alongside the policies, the IAEA has implemented a set of measures to encourage more women to apply for its vacancies since 2020. These include holding webinars promoting women in nuclear science, convening conferences for women in physics and organizing panel discussions on women’s journeys in science. As a result, over 40 per cent of its staff in the professional and higher categories are now women, up from 32 per cent at the end of 2019, making the representation of women at the Agency in these categories at the highest rate in its history. 

“We still have a way to go, but we’re happy to say that with the leadership of our Director General and the concrete actions we’ve implemented, we’re on track to reach gender parity in these categories by 2025,” Frobel said. 

The IAEA supports its Member States on their gender parity efforts with technical publications and events on human resources management, organizational culture and leadership expertise for nuclear organizations. The Agency also strives towards mainstreaming gender in its programmatic work. 

The IAEA also encourages more women from around the world to pursue careers in the nuclear field. In 2020, the IAEA launched the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme (MSCFP) to support the next generation of women working towards their Master’s degrees in nuclear science and technology, nuclear safety and security, or non-proliferation. Since then, 210 students from 93 countries have been selected to participate in the programme, which provides scholarships followed by internship opportunities

Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, encouraged nuclear organizations to take further steps towards increasing gender representation in the nuclear field. “With the MSCFP, the IAEA has helped to lead the way towards a more inclusive nuclear workforce,” Chudakov said. “An inclusive workforce is not only about fairness. It brings new ideas, new perspectives, new ways of solving problems. It contributes not only to an organization’s success but to ensuring that nuclear energy achieves its full potential in helping to tackle some of our world’s greatest challenges.” 

Last update: 04 Nov 2022

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