Despite the progress in recent years, 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, retaining and advancing more and diverse women into careers in STEM in the nuclear energy sector is an important goal that many NEA countries are pursuing.
Mentoring workshops to encourage girls to consider STEM careers
To promote gender balance and the development of female leaders in the nuclear energy sector, the NEA organises mentoring workshops that connect female students interested in STEM careers with nationally and internationally accomplished women in this area. Since 2017 the Agency, together with national organisations, has held 12 mentoring activities reaching girls and young women in five countries, across three continents. Initiated as physical events, the workshops continued in a virtual format in recent years. The NEA will continue co-hosting mentoring sessions in 2022.
👩🔬 Attracting, retaining and advancing more women from diverse backgrounds into careers in #STEM is crucial for the future of safe and efficient nuclear energy ⚛️ @OECD_NEA's work on improving gender balance 👉 https://t.co/XVFrVdaKgH #IWD2022 #womeninstem @WiNglobal pic.twitter.com/D2KLgZnaIu— OECD NEA ⚛️ Nuclear Energy Agency (@OECD_NEA) March 8, 2022
Data collection on women in nuclear energy sector
The NEA is also gathering relevant data, formulating policy, and developing ongoing communications, engagement and educational activities in order to support its member countries to improve the gender balance in the sector. 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, and to develop policy to enhance gender balance and empower women.
In this context, the NEA 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 advancing their careers.
The NEA also gathered gender-disaggregated human resources data from 96 nuclear energy organisations across NEA countries.
In response to the findings, the group is producing international policy actions. The data analysis and policy frameworks based on both surveys are expected to be publicly available in 2022.
Addressing gender balance issues in the academic field
The Global Forum on Nuclear Education, Science, Technology and Policy, an NEA initiative connecting academic institutions with member countries and nuclear energy stakeholders, has launched a working group on achieving gender balance in the academic field. The group will initiate activities focused on promoting nuclear engineering and technology programmes to women; fostering initiatives to encourage their inclusion within the nuclear energy community; and promoting active efforts to invite men to become ‘allies’ to the cause.