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IAEA International Women's Day 2019: Inspiring Stories of Women in the Nuclear Field

Vienna, Austria

(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you very much for inviting me to this event. I am very happy to see lots of people, both from the Member States and from our staff. Perhaps today we have more women and I am very very happy to see them. The IAEA has been celebrating International Women’s Day for years and I have been attending these events every year. The activities and celebrations are becoming more and more active, year by year, and I would like to congratulate you for that.

The representation of women in the IAEA has not been that high. As far as I know, there have been no women candidates for my post. There has been no female Director General in the IAEA. When I became the Director General of this Agency in 2009, the representation of women was around 22 percent – between 1/4 and 1/5 [of staff at P level and above]. So, I took that issue up and tried to increase the proportion of women among the staff. Now, we still have to do a lot, but the representation of women among the staff is around 30 percent for the first time. We have passed the 30 percent mark and we have two female DDGs. I am expecting to have another female DDG to make representation at the highest level of staff equal – 50/ 50.

For that purpose, the IAEA Secretariat has undertaken a number of initiatives. We organized a panel discussion at the General Conference last year on the environment for women. We have encouraged Member States to make women available for technical cooperation training courses or as members of the missions that we send to countries.

We also organised the Safeguards Symposium in November of last year. We had panel discussions on how to improve the balance of men and women in the Safeguards Department. To be frank, the representation of women in the Safeguards Department is not that high. I can understand that, for women in their mid-30s or 40s, it is very difficult to leave home and spend a month in the field. I have had some discussion with them and they talked about some difficulties. There may be ways to address this issue and the panel discussion was very helpful for that.

We also organized a meeting for excellent, very capable women to share their stories and listen to the stories from leading women – both successful stories and difficult stories. This was very useful for women who are considering [becoming candidates] for higher posts.

We are also encouraging young women to study nuclear science. I visited high schools in the Philippines and the United States. I saw more women having an interest in nuclear technology than I thought. Many women are rather interested in biology and not very much in nuclear power plant operations. That is a fact, but it doesn’t mean that women are not interested in nuclear technology. They are interested, and I am very hopeful for their future.

The working environment is very important, and we are making some efforts. For example, we have strengthened our framework to address harassment and sexual harassment. There has been a change in the United Nations and perhaps we are the first international organization that amended our internal rules in line with the new UN rules. Of course, harassment or sexual harassment can take place between man and man or between woman and woman. But improving the harassment and sexual harassment policy will contribute to improve the working environment. From January this year, we introduced more flexible working hours to achieve a better work-life balance. I hope these efforts will lead to a better environment for women to work.

I have a sense of a change of trend – not very dramatic, but a gradual change. The staff survey shows that staff are happy with their work load. If you look more closely at women’s representation department by department, some departments have a quite high level of representation. For example, my office – DGOC – and the Management department have 48 percent – almost equal – and the Technical Cooperation department has 46 percent. Some other departments have strong potential to increase the representation of women. It is true that some departments have difficulties because of the nature of the work. But there are hopes that we can increase the representation of women among the staff. We need to take [both] a bottom-up approach and top-down approach. For example, having more women at the highest level of the Agency will help to change the atmosphere and the working environment.

At the same time, daily efforts are needed to look into recruitment and make a judgement in each recruitment process in order to increase the number of women. We have encouraged all recruitment officers to have this in mind when they are engaged in recruitment. Support from Member States is very crucial. I have found the golden rule in this area – if a company or country identifies a very capable woman…please introduce them to us. There is a high possibility that we can take them. Too bad for you, but we can benefit from that!

With this remark, thank you very much.

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