Black Sea Women in Nuclear Network Celebrated Women’s History Month

April 4, 2023
Valeriia Gergiieva, Adeline du Crest, Margarita Kalinina-Pohl

Black Sea Women in Nuclear Network Celebrated Women’s History Month with a Panel on Women’s Leadership

On March 28, 2023, the Black Sea Women in Nuclear Network (BSWN), established through a collaboration between CNS and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, conducted another round of the Black Sea Experts NucTalks, celebrating Women’s History Month. The virtual webinar focused on women’s leadership and featured four speakers, who shared challenges, achievements and their own experiences. The discussion that followed provided an opportunity to build on speakers’ remarks and address timely topics. BSWN was represented by Dr. Şebnem Udum, Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations at Hacettepe University, who spoke about her experience as chair of the IAEA’s International Nuclear Security Education Network (INSEN); and by Alona Samsonenko, Leading Engineer at the George Kuzmych Training Center (GKTC), Institute of Nuclear Research of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, who described the training center’s activities.

Group shot of online participants

Participants of the Black Sea Women in Nuclear Network panel on women’s leadership.

Access the webinar’s recording.

In her remarks, Dr. Udum noted that “the field used to be male dominated not only physically but also by discourse.” Ms. Samsonenko, when describing GKTC training programs, shared that only 7% of women were part of these programs.

Two invited speakers – Rhonda Evans, Head of Programme Development at the World Institute for Nuclear Security and Anton Gabriel Culea, Nuclear Operator at CNE Cernavoda NPP, Romania, shared insights on how organizations can support female leadership. In her remarks, Ms. Evans provided a summary of women representation in certain nuclear security fields. “It is commonly agreed that women are underrepresented in the nuclear sector at all levels, as they comprise only an estimated 20% of the nuclear workforce and it’s not the whole story. Women are further underrepresented in fields such as cybersecurity and advanced technology (<5%), transport security (<10%) as well as armed guarding and response roles (<12%). Addressing this issue requires visible female leaders,” Ms. Evans noted.

Mr. Culea, representing a nuclear industry sector in Romania, noted that “as an organization you can’t ignore the value which women can bring. In 10 years, women will be in leading positions, and not only in nuclear.”

The speakers pointed to the importance of organizational culture, talent management, and the development of leadership pathways to encourage women to enter the nuclear sector. The NucTalk was moderated by Dr. Valeriia Gergiieva, Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) at the University of Hamburg and Research Fellow at the Odesa Center for Nonproliferation (OdCNP).

During the discussion, participants emphasized the need for continued discussions of equal rights and gender balance within the nuclear community, considering that few women in nuclear fields reach executive levels. Women only make up about 20-25% of the nuclear workforce, and are underrepresented in both nuclear security and the nuclear field in general. Therefore, organizations should prioritize understanding and tackling the barriers women may face that prevent women from joining and thriving in the field. One key instrument is to raise awareness of possibilities for professional development for women in nuclear fields. This would contribute to resolving one critical problem – that women are not aware of the fact that they, too, are welcome in the nuclear industry as the field cannot exclude half of its workforce.

About 30 participants from the Black Sea Region, Europe, and the United States took part in this webinar, with men comprising nearly 30 % of the audience.

Access the webinar’s recording.

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