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Encouraging Women to Pursue International Careers

IAEA Deputy Director General Janice Dunn Lee (far left) hosts a roundtable to discuss women in international careers with a panel of distinguished female Ambassadors representing Costa Rica, Nigeria, Slovakia, Thailand and the United Kingdom, Vienna, Austria, 5 March 2013. (Photo: D. Gjakoni Gjakoni Sanhueza/IAEA)

Women and men bring different perspectives to a work environment. This difference, this balance, which improves creativity and stimulates imagination, is the ingredient that organizations emphasize when they focus on recruiting more women, especially in traditionally male-dominated fields.

To achieve such a balance, there needs to be a larger pool of interested and qualified female applicants for any positions that become vacant. To inspire women to pursue careers in international organizations, the IAEA hosted a panel discussion with five female ambassadors whose careers took them into male-dominated fields.

"I have always felt that one of the best ways to encourage people to realize their full potential is to identify individuals who have achieved success in their occupations," said Janice Dunn Lee, Deputy Director General and Head of the IAEA Department of Management, who hosted the discussion on Tuesday, 5 March 2013.

"International Women's Day is a wonderful opportunity to highlight such success stories as role models to motivate women and to demonstrate that hard work, perseverance and self-confidence can help every woman achieve whatever goal she has set for herself."

Ambassadors Ana Teresa Dengo of Costa Rica, Maria Oyeyinka Laose of Nigeria, Olga Algayerová of Slovakia, H.R.H. Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand, and Susan Jane Le Jeune D'Allegeershecque of the United Kingdom, discussed their careers' often circuitous routes, the people who influenced them and their strategies to inspire women to pursue international careers.

The ambassadors said the major problem facing women was their reluctance to aim higher, limiting themselves by not believing that they would be considered for senior positions, if they applied. The ambassadors also stressed the importance of enjoying one's work. For example, Ambassador Algayerová, who worked in the pharmaceutical industry before becoming a diplomat, said that although the differences between the private and public sectors are stark, particularly regarding remuneration, she gains deep satisfaction from serving others and impacting international policy.

The panelists also had advice for managers based on their own experiences as lower-level staff. Ambassador Le Jeune D'Allegeershecque and Ambassador Algayerová said they were empowered by their managers, people who saw potential in them that they might not have seen in themselves. They were given responsibilities and the space to succeed or fail on their own. Dunn Lee also mentioned one of her senior managers who instilled in her value of public service, something that has inspired her ever since.

"I believe that these women are convincing evidence for other young women that there are careers to be made in international work. Whether technical or diplomacy, the possibilities are endless," said Dunn Lee.

"However, we should also realize that there is much more to be done in terms of increasing the inclusion of women in the social, economic and political arenas, and of finding ways to unlock the potential and opportunities that await future generations of women. In this regard, the empowerment of women continues to be a central feature of the efforts of the United Nations to address pressing socioeconomic challenges around the world," she said.

The full-length video recording of the discussion can be viewed here.

The panel discussion was held on the second day of the March meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, the 35-member body that examines and makes recommendations to the General Conference on the IAEA's accounts, programme and budget, considers applications for membership, approves safeguards agreements and the publication of the IAEA's safety standards, and appoints the Director General of the IAEA with the approval of the General Conference.

On Friday, 8 March 2013 the Vienna Chapter of Women in Nuclear also hosted a lunchtime presentation on violence against women, by Meera Venkatesh, Director of the IAEA Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences.

Last update: 27 July 2017