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Nuclear Security Education Meeting Highlights Role of Education to Reach Gender Parity


Panelists highlighted common challenges women continue to face in the fields of nuclear science, technology, security, safety and policy. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Education is key to increasing the representation of women in nuclear security, concluded panelists at a discussion during the Annual Meeting of the International Nuclear Security Education Network (INSEN) taking place in Vienna this week.

The 2019 Annual Meeting has gathered nearly 100 participants from 50 IAEA Member States, and for the fourth year featured a panel discussion on the role women currently play and should play in nuclear security.

“Under-representation of women in nuclear sciences and nuclear security deprives the world of the creative problem-solving that women bring to the table,” said Oum Keltoum Hakam, Chair of the Women in Nuclear Security panel. “With the issues we are facing, we cannot afford to forego 50 percent of the world’s talent.”

The panelists reiterated common challenges women continue to face in the fields of nuclear science, technology, security, safety and policy. Emerging as a universal challenge was conscious and unconscious bias, demonstrated by both men and women. According to the panelists, one of the most common assumptions, reflecting the bias, was that women do not have the technical background and experience to be leaders in this field.

“Overcoming institutional level barriers requires sustained efforts on the part of institutions to ensure that the culture of that institution is inclusive of women,” said Rhonda Evans, panelist and Head of the World Institute for Nuclear Security Academy. 

IAEA educational outreach

Meeting participants heard that enrollment of women in nuclear security education programmes has been on the rise, with women comprising 40 percent of graduates of the international and regional schools on nuclear security. In addition, the gender ratio of users of the IAEA Nuclear Security E-learning modules is 55% male to 45% female.

“As an Agency, we are committed to gender equality, both in the work we do around the world and in attracting and retaining the best talent,” said Mary Alice Hayward, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Management. “The best talent and competencies are cultivated through education and gender equality.”

INSEN was established in 2010 as a partnership between the IAEA and educational and research institutions dedicated to excellence in nuclear security education. It is committed to increasing the representation of women in nuclear security. As a network, INSEN provides leadership opportunities for women academics within the network, while high-quality education programmes fostered by INSEN encourage more young women to engage in this field through personal mentorship, providing positive role models and a multitude of academic opportunities.

“We see women driving positive change in strengthening their countries’ national nuclear security regimes,” said Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Security. “However, we need to change the narrative and continue taking action to empower women in nuclear security and nuclear sciences. Increasing representation of women in our nuclear security classrooms gives us hope that through education we will increase representation of women in the workforce.”

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