As part of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) efforts to help attract more women and girls into the nuclear energy sector, the Agency has been co-ordinating international mentoring workshops around the world. These workshops offer opportunities for female students to exchange with professionals in the field and highlight the rewarding possibilities that a career in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields can offer.
The NEA recently held a mentoring workshop in the United Kingdom at The Institution of Engineering and Technology in Birmingham on 7-8 March, coinciding with International Women’s Day.
The workshop was co-organised with the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) and Nuclear Skills Strategy Group (NSSG). The event aimed to help support Britain’s future female nuclear leaders and attracted 24 female high school students from six schools in Birmingham and Derby.
NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV, attended the workshop and discussed in his opening remarks why the nuclear sector cannot succeed without the participation of more women. Kiera Harper, Deputy Director of Nuclear Power and Industry at the DESNZ highlighted in her address to the students why it’s a particularly exciting time for students to be considering a future career in the UK’s nuclear sector.
Dr Fiona Rayment, Chief Science and Technology Officer at the UK National Nuclear Laboratory and Chair of the NEA Task Group on Improving Gender Balance in the Nuclear Sector.
Dr Fiona Rayment, Chief Science and Technology Officer at the UK National Nuclear Laboratory and Chair of the NEA Task Group on Improving Gender Balance in the Nuclear Sector, co-chaired the workshop and spent time talking to the students about her own career in the nuclear sector. Fellow co-chair, Katharina Stummeter, Head of the Project Management Agency, Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit (GRS) gGmbH, Germany, also addressed the group and answered many questions on what it’s like to work in the nuclear sector, as well as the different range of jobs available.
A number of experienced nuclear professionals and leaders acted as mentors at the workshop, including Véronique Rouyer, NEA; Elena Neacsu, Horia Hulubei National Institute for R&D in Physics and Nuclear Engineering; Suibel Schuppner, Office of Nuclear Energy, U.S. Department of Energy; Nicole Lee, UK Frazer-Nash Consultancy; Saffron Price-Finnerty, The Environment Agency, UK; Rhiannon May, UK National Nuclear Laboratory; and Ronald Clark, Nuclear Skills Strategy Group, UK.
The workshop attendees received additional guest talks from Beccy Pleasant and Rutendo Madhlambudzi from the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group, and Georgia Pawson, PA Consulting.
The UK mentoring workshop attracted 24 female high school students from six schools in Birmingham and Derby.
A special student-to-student talk came from Grace Stanke, a nuclear engineering student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and current Miss America, who joined the workshop by video link for a discussion with the students about why she loves studying nuclear engineering.
The United Kingdom’s nuclear sector is experiencing a significant transformation. The government’s current strategy aims for new nuclear capacity to provide approximately 25% of electricity by 2050, and a recent announcement revealed that nuclear energy is taking another step closer to being classed as environmentally sustainable in the UK’s green taxonomy.
This expansion of the nuclear sector will require the UK to significantly enlarge the workforce in order to meet their ambitious nuclear production targets, the sector needs to attract more women and girls into the nuclear field.
The current state of gender balance in the nuclear sector was recently highlighted in a new report by the NEA.