Women Powering the Nuclear Industry: International Women’s Day 2024



8 March 2024

WNTI are proudly supporting International Women's Day 2024.

Today, 8th March 2024, we celebrate all women, including family, friends and colleagues. 

Below we look at women at how women are powering the nuclear industry and exploring what more can be done to #InspireInclusion.

In celebration of International Women's Day 2024, it's crucial to spotlight the incredible contributions of women in sectors traditionally dominated by men, particularly in the nuclear industry. This sector, pivotal for its role in energy production, medicine and advancing technology, has historically been male-dominated. Yet, the tide is turning. The push for gender balance and inclusivity is not just a moral imperative but a strategic advantage, fostering innovation, diversity of thought and resilience.

Here at the World Nuclear Transport Institute we proudly recognise and celebrate the outstanding contributions of the talented women in the team, highlighting the vital roles played by Amy Northage, Eileen Supko, Elisa Penda, Emily Midgley, Catherine Shelton and Jessica Boutteau. Each of these exceptional individuals brings a unique set of skills and expertise to the institute, contributing significantly to its mission and goals. Together, these women exemplify the diversity of talent and dedication within the World Nuclear Transport Institute, leading the way for future generations of women in the nuclear transport industry.

The Current Landscape of Women in Nuclear

Within the nuclear sector, there’s a noticeable shift towards more equitable gender representation, although challenges persist. The latest statistics reveal that women are less than a quarter (24.9%) of the overall nuclear sector workforce in NEA countries. This does show an increase over the last decade and reflects a broader range of roles being occupied by women, from operational duties and engineering roles to leadership and policy-making positions. However, only one-fifth (20.6%) of STEM roles in the nuclear sector are held by women represent only 18.3% of senior leadership. This reveals a persistent gender disparity, especially in technical domains and executive levels.

Efforts to bridge this gap have seen varying degrees of success across the globe. In Europe, targeted initiatives promoting STEM education among young girls have led to an uptick in female participation in nuclear disciplines. Across the Atlantic, mentorship programmes and professional networks have provided essential support for women navigating their careers in this sector. These measures represent steps towards not just improving gender inclusivity but also enhancing the innovation capacity and resilience of the nuclear industry by embracing diversity in its workforce.

Pioneering Women in the Nuclear Field

The annals of nuclear science are rich with the stories of women who dared to venture into uncharted territories, leaving an indelible mark on the field. Apart from Marie Skłodowska  Curie’s seminal work on radioactivity, which not only garnered her two Nobel Prizes but also set the stage for the future of nuclear research, there are numerous other heroines. Lise Meitner’s pivotal role in understanding nuclear fission unlocked a fundamental aspect of nuclear physics, paving the way for advancements in energy and weaponry. In the modern era, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson’s achievements, being the first African-American woman to secure a doctorate in nuclear physics from MIT, illustrate the breaking of racial and gender barriers within the scientific community.

These women, among others, have not only contributed critical scientific insights but also served as beacons of inspiration for generations to come. Their journeys underscore the essential blend of determination, intellect and courage required to pioneer in a field often dominated by men. By charting new paths, they have significantly altered the landscape of nuclear science, ensuring a more inclusive and diverse field for future scientists.

Marie Skłodowska Curie
Marie Skłodowska Curie
Lise Meitner
Lise Meitner
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

Overcoming Challenges and Building Inclusivity

Navigating the landscape of the nuclear industry presents unique obstacles for women, ranging from entrenched societal biases to disparities in leadership roles. Addressing these hurdles is essential for fostering a more inclusive and equitable work environment. The sector is increasingly adopting flexible working arrangements and revising parental leave policies to better accommodate the needs of its workforce. Mentorship schemes, particularly those tailored for women, are proving invaluable for career progression and personal development. In addition, there’s a growing emphasis on educational initiatives aimed at dismantling unconscious biases, with workshops and training sessions designed to promote a culture of respect and equality. These efforts are integral to ensuring that the nuclear industry not only attracts but also sustains a diverse talent pool, ultimately enriching the sector with a variety of perspectives and ideas.

Initiatives and Organisations Championing Women in Nuclear

Several key entities are at the forefront of advocating for enhanced gender representation in the nuclear sector. Among these, Women in Nuclear (WiN) Global stands out, functioning as a dynamic platform that connects female professionals across the globe. This network not only fosters professional relationships but also actively works to debunk myths surrounding nuclear technology, making the field more accessible and appealing to women. Additionally, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) plays a pivotal role through its Gender Equality Policy. The IAEA’s initiatives are multifaceted, offering scholarships, internships and professional growth opportunities tailored to uplift women and catalyse their participation in nuclear science and technology arenas. These efforts are complemented by various local and regional programmes that seek to dismantle barriers and cultivate a supportive environment for women pursuing careers in nuclear. Through such dedicated efforts, these organisations are not just supporting individual career paths but are fundamentally reshaping the industry’s landscape to become more inclusive and diverse.

The Road Ahead for Gender Balance in the Nuclear Sector

The pathway towards a gender-balanced nuclear sector demands persistent and innovative efforts. With the industry poised on the brink of transformative changes, harnessing a diverse talent pool becomes imperative. The endeavour to elevate the representation of women necessitates a multifaceted approach, encompassing educational outreach, supportive policies and visible leadership opportunities. By showcasing the opportunities within the nuclear field, we can inspire a new generation of women to explore this dynamic sector. Creating an environment that supports women’s progression to leadership roles is essential for driving forward change. This requires a concerted effort to dismantle existing barriers and to cultivate a culture that values diversity and inclusivity. These efforts are not just beneficial for women but are critical for the sector’s ability to innovate and tackle global challenges. As we move forward, the focus must remain on building a nuclear industry that fully embraces and benefits from gender diversity, ensuring it remains vibrant, inclusive and forward-looking.