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Remarks by Director General Yukiya Amano International Women’s Day

Vienna Austria

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addresses participants at the panel discussion on Exploring Unconscious Bias, which the Agency organized to mark International Women's Day 2018. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery)

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues.

I welcome you all to this celebration of International Women’s Day.

I am pleased that the focus this year is on unconscious bias. It will be helpful for all of us to be made aware of the possibility that unconscious bias may unintentionally affect decision-making.

I was struck by a line in a recent report by Newsweek magazine on improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace: “Bias narrows the talent pool.” I repeat: “Bias narrows the talent pool.”

As Director General, one of my responsibilities is to ensure that the IAEA attracts the very best talent from the global talent pool. That includes attracting the best qualified women.

Since becoming Director General more than eight years ago, I have worked hard to increase the proportion of women on the Agency’s staff, especially in more senior positions.

We have made progress. The proportion of women in professional and higher positions is now around 29 percent, compared with 22 percent eight years ago.

But we need to do better and I know we can. My goal is to achieve gender parity among the most senior officials by 2021.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I visit 20 to 30 IAEA Member States every year, many of which are developing countries.

In virtually every branch of nuclear science and technology, I am impressed by the growing proportion of women I meet who have senior technical roles in hospitals, laboratories, government bodies and research institutes.

I encourage these well-qualified women, who are experts in radiation oncology, biology, chemistry, engineering, physics – and many other areas – to consider applying for positions with the Agency.

I have said many times that if we fail to appoint more women to important positions, including scientific and technical roles, we are missing out on a high percentage of the world’s finest minds. No organization can afford to do that.

The IAEA Statute makes clear that the priority must always be to appoint staff with the highest standards of integrity, efficiency and technical competence, regardless of gender.

Bearing this in mind, I encourage my senior management team, and hiring managers throughout the Agency, to make every effort to recruit well-qualified female candidates, wherever possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Agency also works to encourage more school and university students – especially girls – to study nuclear science and technology.

I believe that if, at an early age, girls get a sense of how exciting careers in nuclear science and engineering can be, they are more likely to be attracted to this sector. It is also important that they learn about successful women who can serve as role models.

Last month, in the Philippines, I attended the launch of a new four-year regional IAEA project entitled Educating Secondary Students and Science Teachers on Nuclear Science and Technology. This follows very successful pilot projects. Nineteen countries are participating. Special efforts are being made to ensure that as many girls as possible participate.

I am confident that this project will lead to an increase in the number of bright young people ­– both male and female – who will take up studies in the nuclear field in participating states in the coming years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In order to encourage well-qualified female candidates to take up positions in the Agency, it is essential to offer a positive and stimulating working atmosphere.

Since I became Director General, I have stated repeatedly that there is zero tolerance for all forms of unethical behaviour, including sexual harassment and bullying, at the Agency. This applies to all staff, whether they hold a high level position or not.

Unfortunately, despite the zero tolerance policy, cases of harassment, including sexual harassment, have occurred. These cases have been addressed and measures have been taken as necessary.

Nevertheless, I believe that there is room for improvement in addressing such issues. I encourage all staff to report allegations of misconduct without fear of retaliation. If cases are not reported, it is difficult for management to take action.

As part of our efforts, I have created the new position of Chief of Ethics. The selected candidate will join us soon, and help us to raise awareness on ethical standards, organize training and provide confidential advice to staff, when requested.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by thanking you all for your participation here today and by wishing all my female colleagues, as well as our guests, a very happy International Women’s Day.

Thank you.


Last update: 14 March 2018


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