From October 13 to 15, the III Eurasian Women’s Forum was held in St. Petersburg. It is the largest international platform uniting women leaders from all over the world to discuss the role of women in the modern world and develop common approaches to solving global problems.
The International Mentoring Workshop, organized as part of a forum jointly with the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD NEA) allowed to reveal the personnel opportunities of the nuclear industry for more than 30 students from St. Petersburg Polytechnic University named after Peter the Great and National Research Nuclear University MEPhI. This format of communication with young girls was developed by the OECD NEA as one of the most important products of public opinion formation in favor of the development of nuclear energy.
The event was opened by OECD NEA Director General Mr William Magwood IV and Deputy Director General of ROSATOM Ms Tatiana Terentieva. The workshop was moderated by Mr Vladimir Artisyuk, Adviser to the General Director of ROSATOM.
“ROSATOM’s vision 2030 is focused on providing equal opportunities to every talented person, regardless of gender and age. We strive to unleash the potential of each employee and are working to increase the prestige of nuclear specialties. We are glad that more and more girls are considering a career in STEM and choosing the atomic industry,” said Tatiana Terentieva.
Women who have made successful careers related to the development of the world nuclear industry were invited to the event as mentors: Former Deputy Director-General, Head of the Department of Management at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ms Janice DUNN LEE (USA), Professor at the International Nuclear Safety School of the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety Ms Yeonhee HAH (South Korea), Head of the OECD NEA Division of Nuclear Science and Education Ms Tatiana IVANOVA (France), Head of Business Development Department at JSC “Afrikantov OKBM” Ms Nadezhda SALNIKOVA (Russia), Former Director of the IAEA Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences Ms Meera VENKATESH (India).
St. Petersburg Polytechnic University was represented by an international team of students from Russia, Turkey, Botswana, and Thailand. As the event was held in English, it was a good exercise of working in international teams, studying role models of successful career development for young ladies.
As a result of an online survey conducted at the beginning of the workshop, a general portrait of female students who chose a career in STEM was formed. It turned out that the incentive for choosing this educational track is interest in the sciences and the desire to learn to overcome difficulties. It is interesting to note that as a potential place for future work, students see Rosatom enterprises. The key criteria for this choice are good wages and wide career opportunities.
Most female students consider working in international organizations as a future career opportunity, understanding and highlighting the language barrier as the main difficulty for them. However, as a result of communication with mentors, students received a remarkable example of overcoming this barrier – four of the five mentors are not native English speakers, and this did not prevent them from achieving high positions in international organizations, such as the IAEA and the OECD NEA.
Representatives of the nuclear industry of Russia and China, namely, the Jiangsu Nuclear Energy Corporation and Machine-Building Plant JSC, united the International Women’s Teleconference. The meeting was moderated by the Director of the Center for International Cooperation of Rosatom Technical Academy, Ms Alesia Iunikova. Participants of the meeting discussed the challenges and difficulties faced by women who chose a career in the nuclear industry; what motivates them to remain in the industry and what practices are used to involve women in scientific, technical and research activities.
Another event of the forum, supported by ROSATOM, was an open meeting of the International Working Group of the OECD NEA on improving gender balance in the nuclear field.
The working group was established in 2020 to collect and analyse data on women’s involvement in the nuclear sector, share best practices and make recommendations for improving gender balance in 34 participating countries. The importance of this work was highlighted in a welcoming statement by the OECD NEA Director General Mr William Magwood IV.
According to the statement of Mr Alexei Likhachev, Director General of ROSATOM State Corporation, the strategy of Rosatom establishes the promotion of Sustainable Development Goals. “Everything related to the implementation of these goals, including gender equality, is in the focus of our special attention. We constantly monitor such important indicators as remuneration, career growth and training opportunities, family support and many others,” he stressed.
The event included presentations on gender balance in the nuclear industry, selected country cases for maintaining equality of opportunity from Argentina, France, Russia, STEM skills development initiatives among girls in India and data on gender balance in the fuel and energy complex of Russia.
According to the OECD NEA studies, it is the female part of society that seems the most conservative in considering issues of nuclear energy development. Therefore, working with schoolgirls and students at the start of their professional careers is a significant response from nuclear international organizations to global challenges. The format of the mentoring work focuses on the orientation of girls to build careers in the field of exact and engineering sciences and technologies, for which the term STEM was developed (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
The first mentoring workshop was held in Japan for schoolgirls of Fukushima Prefecture in 2017. The aim was to reassure the population of the region affected by the accident through education of young people in the field of nuclear physics and radiation protection. The workshop was a success which was measured by the increase in girls’ admission to universities in Japan for technical specialties. Later, such workshops were held in Spain. The first mentoring workshop in Russia was held in 2019 for students of the NRNU MEPhI. In 2021, in the context of a pandemic in a remote format, mentorings was held in Kenya, Japan and Russia.