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IAEA Event Emphasizes Gender Parity as Crucial for Innovation and Organizational Excellence

 

Gender parity is crucial to fostering innovation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and in enabling organizations to perform measurably better, panellists agreed at an event focused on The Added Value of Gender Parity in Vienna this morning.

Opening the discussion, which took place alongside the 61st IAEA General Conference, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano highlighted the importance of gender equality and of striking a balance of representation of men and women in the workplace, recognising the role of diversity in spurring innovation and new ideas.

Mr Amano said: “If we do not have gender parity, we miss a very high percentage of the world’s finest minds.”

Panellists discussed the challenges in increasing the number of women working in the nuclear sector and shared their experience on how diversity makes organizations stronger.

Moderating the discussion, Mary Alice Hayward, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Management, stressed the need for senior leaders to set the tone at the top and continually pursue gender equality and equal representation. She also pointed out the inverse relationship between women’s seniority and representation across the United Nations system.

“The higher the grade, the larger the gap in gender parity,” she said. “As senior leaders, we have a collective responsibility to drive results in the area of gender equality. We have a responsibility to actively look for, and undo, potential biases in our policies, activities and behaviours.” 

Cecile Kossoff, Global Director of Knowledge Dissemination and Communications at McKinsey and Company in Paris and a co-author of the “Women Matter” series of research since 2007, highlighted extensive data that establishes a strong correlation between teams of near-equal representation of men and women and better company performance.

“There is a real macro-economic case for building gender diversity and for closing this gender gap in the economy,” she said.

Gender equality in society and in the workplace

Kossoff also talked about the strong link between gender equality in society and gender equality in the workplace, adding: “The latter is not achievable without the former. If we want women to participate in the economy to the same level as men we need to address the barriers and the inequalities in societies that act as obstacles to women joining the workforce.”                                           

Thembisile Majola, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Energy, highlighted the need for an inclusive environment for women and girls from an early age.

“Workplaces are usually a reflection of what happens in society,” she said. “The understanding that this diversity actually is a plus, that gender mainstreaming makes good business sense – if you do not bring those aspects on board, you actually end up losing out.”

Brendon Hammer, Resident Representative of Australia to the IAEA and Australia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Vienna, cited the example of the Male Champions of Change Institute in Australia which works with influential leaders to redefine men’s role in taking action on gender inequality.

“It’s not just about fairness or social justice, it’s about economic outcomes,” he said. “The gender equity debate is part of a larger set of concepts around workplace reform and flexible workplaces, changing the dynamic within the workplace so that it is more open to ideas and open to different kinds of people. This is diversity. This is what gets your innovation and your productivity up.”

Role of employee engagement

Carol Burns, Deputy Principal Associate Director of Science, Technology and Engineering at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States of America, emphasized that in addition to balancing the representation of men and women in the workplace, there is a need for broad employee engagement and participation in contributing to the mission of the organization.

“Just having the numbers is not the secret sauce to make it all work,” she said. “It’s about actually ensuring that they have equal participation in the decision-making processes, that they feel engaged and empowered.”

As an example, she highlighted that more gender balanced scientific teams outperform those that include predominantly either men or women on standard measures such as scientific citation rates.

Gender parity at the IAEA

The IAEA has increased the representation of women in the organization over the years, with women currently making up 29.4% of Regular staff in the Professional and higher categories. However, Mr Amano stressed that despite this being the highest rate in the IAEA’s history, the ratio remained too low.

In June 2017 Mr Amano and Ms Hayward became International Gender Champions, committing to promoting gender balance in the senior ranks of the IAEA. “We both take the commitments we made very seriously,” Mr Amano said. “Advancing gender parity will remain a strategic objective for the IAEA.”

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