In recent years, NEA countries have highlighted gender balance as a matter of increasing importance that would benefit from international co-operation. Women continue to be underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, including in the nuclear energy sector. This gender gap has considerable implications for the future of nuclear energy, which needs a robust and diverse workforce to drive performance and innovation for the future of safe and efficient nuclear technologies. Attracting and retaining more and diverse women into careers in STEM in the nuclear energy sector is an important goal that many NEA countries are pursuing.
The NEA is supporting its member countries to improve the gender balance in the sector by gathering data, formulating policy, and developing on-going communications, engagement, and educational activities. In response to member country requests during a series of high-level meetings held in 2019 and early 2021, the NEA established a formal task group to collect and analyse data and best practices in enhancing gender balance and empowering women.
In this context, the NEA concluded a survey that collected information from over 8 000 women in the global nuclear energy sector. This first-ever initiative to gather comprehensive international data on women in nuclear energy-related roles aimed at identifying the challenges and barriers they face to career advancement.
The task group to collect and analyse the resulting data met virtually for the fourth high-level NEA meeting on improving gender balance on 18 November 2021 to review the data collected in the survey.
Dr Fiona Rayment, Chair of the task group, Vice Chair of the NEA Steering Committee and Chief Science and Technology Officer of the United Kingdom National Nuclear Laboratory, noted the swift action of the task group to gather quantitative and qualitative data in 2021. “There has been great progress made by a whole host of women across NEA member countries,” said Dr Rayment.
Task group members also examined gender-disaggregated human resources data gathered from 96 nuclear energy organisations across NEA member countries. The data confirms that women are underrepresented in the nuclear energy workforce, especially in STEM positions, and that female representation decreases further at upper management levels. In addition, women lag compared to their male counterparts on key indicators, including salary data. In response to the findings, the group is producing actionable international policy recommendations. The data analysis and policy framework are expected to be publicly available in 2022.
The task group will continue to co-ordinate the efforts of NEA member countries to secure the long-term vibrancy and sustainability of the nuclear field by encouraging women to pursue STEM careers in the nuclear energy sector and promoting female leadership
The NEA has been actively promoting the importance of improving gender balance and diversity through public engagement. NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV addressed delegates to the Third Eurasian Women’s Forum held in St. Petersburg, Russia on October 15, 2021. In his online remarks, he emphasised the importance of closing the gender gap in STEM and nuclear technology for ensuring a sustainable, clean energy future. Later in the month, he participated in the Women in Nuclear (WiN) Global 2021 annual conference held virtually in Canada. At both events he underscored the urgency for nuclear energy leaders to look beyond diversity and gender statistics and create inclusive work cultures that embrace and advance all employees.
NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV (top right) spoke about improving diversity in the nuclear sector at the Women in Nuclear Global Annual Conference on 19 October 2021 with (clockwise from bottom right) Jack Gritt, Executive Board Member of Women in Nuclear; Winnie Ndubai, Director of Strategy and Planning at Kenya’s Nuclear Power and Energy Agency; and Rumina Velshi, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.