IAEA - International Atomic Energy Agency

07/21/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/21/2021 04:38

Strengthening the Capacity of Women in Nuclear Security Worldwide: An IAEA Webinar

Much progress in nuclear and many groundbreaking discoveries are thanks to the contribution of women scientists - yet to this day, women remain underrepresented in many areas of nuclear science, including nuclear security. A new initiative from the IAEA hopes to change that.

'Nuclear security needs the talents of both men and women, as diversity and gender equality bring benefits to all sectors. However, it is important to understand and tackle the barriers that women can face to joining and thriving in the field,' said Elena Buglova, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Security. 'I hope that through this important initiative, we can learn from the experiences of women from the Agency and Member States, and contribute to promoting and strengthening the involvement of women in nuclear security worldwide.'

The IAEA recently launched the Women in Nuclear Security Initiative (WINSI), with the aim of inspiring young women to take up jobs in the sector. As an initial activity under this initiative, the IAEA is organizing a series of webinars, the first of which focused on the IAEA's role in strengthening the capacity of women in nuclear security. You can watch the recording of the webinar here.

Initiatives such as WINSI support the increased representation of women in the nuclear field, a key goal of the IAEA, which is set to achieve gender parity in the professional and higher job categories by 2025. Just over a quarter of all applicants to professional jobs at the IAEA in nuclear safety and security are currently women.

Dominique Mouillot, President of Women in Nuclear (WiN) Global, highlighted how the WINSI initiative lines up with WiN's mission to promote interest in nuclear, engineering and science and achieve diversity, in particular gender balance, in nuclear science professions. During the webinar WINSI was formally inaugurated as an interest group under the umbrella of WiN Global.

Starting with Education

One essential component of enabling individuals to pursue careers in the nuclear industry is providing them with necessary knowledge, expertise and understanding of the field. To this end, the IAEA offers support to universities and higher education institutions in building nuclear security education programmes to nurture the next generation of professionals.

With a view to develop a more gender balanced nuclear security sector for the future, the IAEA also encourages universities to admit more women to such programmes and last year launched the IAEA Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme.

Bilikisu Adeola Muse, a Regulatory Officer at the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority and a graduate of the IAEA-supported International Master Programme in Nuclear Security said during the webinar: 'It is important to have identifiable and effective role models, not only in nuclear security, but also in the nuclear sector as a whole and be mentored by the best.' She added that more women now have success stories to share with the younger generation than in the past.

'To support and build the capacities of all individuals, and especially women, is one of the key objectives of the IAEA's many projects,' said Oum Keltoum Hakam, Education Officer at the IAEA and speaker during the webinar. 'In addition to targeted initiatives like WINSI, the IAEA is supporting professionals in Member States through a variety of education and training programmes, for example the International and Regional Schools on Nuclear Security.'

The webinar was also a chance to shed light on the different areas of work available in the nuclear security field. Former IAEA Nuclear Security Officer and current Nuclear Security and Non-proliferation Advisor for the Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Commission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bakri Noor Fitriah, drew from her own career to explain the areas of work in regulatory bodies in nuclear security as well as the challenges she faced. 'From drafting laws behind a desk to handling equipment, nuclear security is a very interesting and diverse field and it's open to everyone.'

Many professions have a role in nuclear security. Customs officers, police officers and border guards are essential to the detection of criminal or unauthorized acts either through the work of risk analysis and intelligence, or the use of radiation detection.

'Security risks have increased and diversified, and a diverse workforce is better suited to combat new threats,' said Constanza Bucarey Andaur from the Department of Illicit Traffic Control in Chile. 'Participating in the trainings and programmes the IAEA organizes is key to helping workers, both men and women, develop new skills to tackle the ever-evolving challenges.'

This webinar is the first from WINSI. The next in the series, on 'Women in Information and Computer Security in the Nuclear World', is planned for Wednesday, 28 July 2021. For more information, check WINSI's page.

Read more about the IAEA's work on gender equality.