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Women's Role in Field of Nuclear Science

Ambassador Xolisa Mfundiso Mabhongo of South Africa and Janice Dunn Lee, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Management, at the round table side event.

Early on the second morning of the 57th IAEA General Conference, Janice Dunn Lee, IAEA Deputy Director General, and Head of the Department of Management, together with the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP), Women in Nuclear (WIN) and the International Network for Emerging Nuclear Specialists (INENS), organized a round table discussion on Women in All Things Nuclear. This event was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the IAEA, and the IAEA Resident Representatives from Japan, Lesotho, South Africa, the United Kingdom and other eminent experts in the field of nuclear science and technology participated.

The round table event, moderated by Laura Rockwood, Section Head, Non-Proliferation and Policy Making Section, Office of Legal Affairs, focused on the roles and opportunities for women in this field, and addressed issues in nuclear law, regulation, technology, policy, diplomacy and management.

The Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa and President of the IAEA's 57th General Conference, Xolisa Mfundiso Mabhongo, noted in his welcoming address to the participants that in South Africa the role women play in the nuclear field enhances the development goals of his country. Countries, like South Africa, need to build more nuclear power reactors, which affords more opportunities for women. He noted that without the support of women, progress is delayed. Ambassador Mabhongo said, "More women need to be appointed in leadership positions, and we need to recognize their central role in a country's developmental programme from the local to the national level."

IAEA Deputy Director General Dunn Lee said that governments concrete steps in supporting women's entry into the nuclear field are essential. That step will require a focused outreach effort to increase understanding and the visibility of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology is a vital outreach effort. She emphasized the need for a proactive and inter-disciplinary approach to inspire women from legal, communication and diplomatic backgrounds to enter the nuclear field as a profession. Deputy Director General Dunn Lee also noted that "women connect with each other, stimulate and foster ideas and need to be at the table to make a difference to international peace and security, and this means having a good understanding of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy."

The United Kingdom's Parliamentary Under-Secretary, (Department of Energy and Climate Change), Baroness Sandip Verma, drew attention to the importance of science and technology and the lack of women experts, calling it "a serious void for great talent and we need to seek ways of encouraging women to pursue nuclear sciences, which is an exciting industry."

The Permanent Representative of Japan, Toshiro Ozawa, informed the meeting about the efforts being made by the Japanese Government to create awareness about the benefits of nuclear science especially in the health and agricultural sectors.

Observing that the Agency has been working hard to inform the public about its mission and work, the Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Lesotho, Lineo Khechane Ntoane, stressed that "awareness building programmes can be the building blocks for more girls to be registered for science subjects."

Elena Sokova, Executive Director of the VCDNP, noted a number of educational and professional development programs with specific focus on nuclear policy and science that were put in place in the past decade. These efforts should be continued and expanded, while international organizations and the academic community need to be more proactive in promoting these opportunities for women and emerging specialists.

Round table participants agreed that attitudes about women's involvement in nuclear sciences that are prevalent in developing countries will need to change, and in parallel, there needs to be a greater awareness of women's central role in any country's progress. To support these changes, the participants discussed how to develop a network of women and how to raise awareness about the benefits of nuclear sciences and technologies.

Last update: 20 Sep 2017

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