OECD commits to improving nuclear sector gender balance

09 June 2023

The members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have called on national authorities and the industry to take action to increase the representation of women in the sector and enhance their contributions.

(Image: OECD NEA)

The formal adoption by the organisation's 38 member countries of the Recommendation on Improving the Gender Balance in the Nuclear Sector will help governments to attract more women into the nuclear sector and develop more female leaders, ensuring its sustainability and contribution to net zero, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) said.

The OECD Recommendation follows the release earlier this year of Gender Balance in the Nuclear Sector, a report by the NEA which included the first publicly available international data on the topic. Based on data collected from more than 8000 women in the nuclear workforce in 32 countries, as well as human resources data from 96 nuclear organisations in 17 countries, the study found that women currently make up 20% of the nuclear science and engineering workforce in NEA member countries and represent a very small fraction of upper management. It also found that women often experience hostility in their nuclear workplaces and negative career impacts due to pregnancy and family responsibilities.

According to the NEA, total nuclear energy production needs to triple by 2050 for governments around the world to achieve net zero emissions. To achieve this, the nuclear sector must grow and diversify its workforce. But the persistent gender gap impacts the future viability of nuclear energy globally, NEA Director General William D Magwood, IV, said: "The NEA made it a priority to move beyond simply discussing the issue and to work with its member countries to develop a focused and specific policy framework to make a real difference to improve the gender balance in the nuclear sector. We expect to see that a broad range of organisations stand ready to work with governments to implement these policy recommendations."

"Nuclear power is primed to enable our energy security and net zero commitments to be realised, however, this requires recruitment and retention of a highly diverse workforce," said Fiona Rayment, chief science and technology officer of the UK's National Nuclear Laboratory and chair of the NEA group that conducted the study.

"As such, I am absolutely delighted to see the policy instrument on gender balance has been adopted by the OECD. This builds on the hard work and dedication of the NEA Gender Balance Task Group members, which will have a real impact on improving wider diversity ambitions across the nuclear sector internationally as we look ahead to the future."

The legal instrument was adopted at the OECD Ministerial Council meeting in Paris this week. "Our like-minded community remains committed to: the shared values of individual liberty, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, gender equality, environmental sustainability and tackling inequalities, as set out in our 2021 Vision Statement; as well as diversity and inclusion," the OECD Ministerial Council said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News