Female Face of Nuclear Industry

Gender equality is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is obvious that women’s contribution to the nuclear industry is no less important than the contribution made by men. The Women in Nuclear Foundation is at the forefront in supporting initiatives aimed at achieving gender balance in Russia.

As a serious challenge of our age, overcoming gender inequality was included in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals put forward by the United Nations.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), women make 22.4% of the nuclear industry employees globally (this share is higher in Rosatom: as of 2018, women made 34% out of 255,400 people employed by the nuclear corporation). Late IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano repeatedly expressed his concern about this issue, “Women played an important role in nuclear science even in its early days. But they are still underrepresented in the industry. I would like to see more women working in the IAEA.” Amano used to stress the need to achieve gender parity in the agency by 2021.

There are many women in various fields of nuclear industry, but experts point to a shortage of females in the management.

Gender studies uses two specific terms to describe the challenges females encounter in the labor market: “sticky floor” meaning the impossibility of climbing the career ladder and “glass ceiling” meaning difficulties in rising to the top positions. For example, according to the Women in Nuclear Foundation, the share of men and women among Rosatom’s top managers as of January 1, 2019, were 79.9% and 20.1% respectively. Angelika Khaperskaya, Co-Founder of the Women in Nuclear and senior manager at the Rosatom’s spent nuclear fuel management PMO, is sure that achieving gender parity is a vital task, “Training professionals for the nuclear power industry has become a challenge in the 21st century, and increasing a share of women is one of the solutions to the problem. A broader involvement of women in the nuclear industry is now a global trend.”

Women united

A number of organizations supports women’s initiatives on the global scale. One of them, Women in Nuclear Global, was co-founded by Agneta Rising, Director General of the World Nuclear Association. Under her leadership, the number of members in the organization grew four-fold. “Women are extremely important for effective development of the global nuclear industry. There should be programs targeted at involving and hiring women, otherwise they will not be able to capitalize on the competitive advantages they have thanks to their talents,” Rising said.

Founded in 1992, Women in Nuclear Global (WIN Global) is an international organization uniting more than 35,000 women professionals and activists from 109 countries.

Russia is not an exception. An independent organization called the Women in Nuclear Foundation was established in 2018 to support and promote women’s initiatives. The Foundation cooperates with WIN Global and other associations and formulates its mission as to “unite women employed in the nuclear industry, form an industry community of women professionals and promote business cooperation to achieve social goals for the benefit of society and development of the nuclear industry”.

The objectives pursued by the Foundation include professional support of women in nuclear (mentoring and training programs, legal support, etc.) and social activities, such as support of families with many children, health initiatives, and so on. The founders of the Foundation are sure that it will become a means of social mobility helping women climb the career ladder. “We will support women by providing them with necessary information, developing their competencies and laying the ground for professional and career growth,” explains Margarita Udalaya, co-founder of the Foundation and a senior employee of the Nuclear Legacy Management Department at Rosatom.

The Foundation launched an IT platform for women activists to communicate with each other and with mentors and have online access to educational courses. Women from eight Russian regions attended the first National Women in Nuclear Conference held in late September. Addressing the attendees, Marina Belyaeva, a member of the Foundation’s Board and Director of Rosatom’s International Cooperation Department, stressed the importance of developing competencies among women in nuclear, “Women are interested in good education, professional career and success in business. This has a positive effect on the industry development since professionally educated, active and socially minded people are the most valuable capital and a powerful resource for the development of the nuclear power industry”.

The Conference discussed sustainable development of the nuclear power industry, raising public awareness of nuclear energy, spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste management, and social responsibility of the industry. Health was another important topic of the Conference. Representatives of RESHMA Medical Center of the Federal Biomedical Agency spoke at the Conference about the importance of cancer prevention and forming a healthy lifestyle culture.

Following the Conference, action groups were established in eight nuclear host cities across Russia.