Women scientists at UN atomic agency honoured for role in maledominated field

Two women scientists from the United Nations atomic watchdog agency have been honoured by an international nuclear industry organization as role models that illustrate the need for and benefits of diversification, both from the moral and business standpoints in what is still mainly a male-dominated field.Gabriele Voigt from Germany and Anita Nilsson from Sweden, scientists at the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), were among 14 eminent women honoured earlier this month at the 30th Annual Symposium of the World Nuclear Association (WNA), an organization mainly of companies seeking to promote the peaceful use of nuclear power as a sustainable energy resource for the coming centuries.The awardees are role models who “present an encouraging message for young women considering the nuclear professions and an instructive message to managers within the nuclear industry,” WNA Director General John Ritch said.“The message to managers is particularly significant. For a rapidly expanding global industry, a diversified workforce is not just a moral and legal obligation; it is also a sound business objective.“The contribution of women as scientists and leaders is proven, and their credibility as communicators is a uniquely effective asset in strengthening public confidence in nuclear technology as a safe and valuable tool in the global pursuit of sustainable development,” he added.Ms. Voigt, director of the IAEA´s Seibersdorf Laboratory, leads a staff of 180 that serves as the IAEA´s research and analysis arm, while conducting programmes on human health, water resources, food and agriculture, and scientific training for developing countries. Ms. Nilsson heads the IAEA´s office of nuclear security, which directs an international programme aimed at protecting nuclear and other radioactive materials from seizure and misuse by terrorists.Despite attainments, the nuclear professions still remains a male-dominated arena. At the IAEA in Vienna women fill fewer than 20 per cent of professional and higher posts. Women are also comparably underrepresented in the wide realm of nuclear professions in the private sector.Both the IAEA and the WNA are committed to rectifying this deficiency. With nuclear technology predicted to play an expanding role in the 21st century, each organization is seeking to identify and encourage measures to attract women in increasing numbers into nuclear science and technology.