Attracting more women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields is an increasingly important goal that many NEA member countries are pursuing. Women are under-represented in the nuclear sector, especially in leadership and STEM roles. This has considerable implications for the future of the nuclear sector, which needs a robust and diverse workforce to drive performance and innovation. In recent years, NEA countries have highlighted gender balance as a matter of increasing importance that would benefit from international co-operation and formed a high-level task group to take action.
The goals of the NEA Task Group on Improving the Gender Balance are to collect data on the challenges to achieving gender balance in STEM and leadership positions in the nuclear sector and to develop international policy to help countries enhance the contributions of women. The group also supports targeted communications, engagement and educational activities to advance the participation and visibility of women in the sector. Delegates to the task group are high-level representatives including government officials and experts from industry, research institutes, and academia. The task group is chaired by Dr Fiona Rayment, Vice Chair of the NEA Steering Committee and Chief Science and Technology Officer of the United Kingdom National Nuclear Laboratory.
The task group met on 24 June 2022 to make progress on a forthcoming report on gender balance in the nuclear sector. The report will provide the first publicly available, international data on gender balance in the sector. It will present the data needed to understand the global challenges to improving gender balance and inform evidence-driven solutions on the international level. In addition to taking stock of the current situation, the report will also suggest a policy framework for international co-operation and recommendations to support countries working to improve gender balance.
The data was collected by the NEA in 2021 through surveys of more than 8 000 women in the global nuclear energy sector in 32 countries and from 96 nuclear energy organisations in 17 countries. The data confirms that women are under-represented in the nuclear energy workforce, especially in STEM positions, and that female representation decreases further at upper management levels. Women lag compared to their male counterparts on key indicators, including salary data. The report is expected to be published in early 2023.
NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV, noted the urgency of undertaking swift, co-ordinated international action in his opening remarks. He highlighted the importance of attracting and supporting diverse talent in order to build the creative, innovative workforce that the nuclear energy sector needs in the context of the global effort to mitigate climate change and transition to clean and sustainable energy.
The NEA has been promoting gender balance and diversity through engagement and educational activities. The Agency co-operates with national organisations to hold mentoring workshops for adolescent girls. Thirteen such events have been held since 2017. Additional workshops are planned, including in Canada with Indigenous girls.
In addition, the Global Forum on Nuclear Education, Science, Technology and Policy, an NEA initiative connecting academic institutions with member countries and nuclear energy stakeholders, launched a working group on achieving gender balance in the academic field.