Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy

November 14, 2018
Sarah Bidgood

November 14, 2018, marked the official launch of Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy, an important new leadership network that aims to break down gender barriers in the nuclear policy domain. This vital initiative brings together heads of US-based non-governmental organizations, philanthropies, foundations, and other groups to advance this goal. CNS Director Dr. William C. Potter has joined more than thirty other Gender Champions in adopting concrete measures that will promote this objective. The activities he and the other Champions have committed to undertake will help make gender equality a reality within the nonproliferation and disarmament communities.

Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy (GCN)

Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy (GCN)

The Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy initiative tackles the persistent gender gap in nuclear nonproliferation, arms control, disarmament, and related topics. Its members commit to specific actions designed to promote gender balance both within their own organizations and across the nuclear-policy community more broadly. As a Gender Champion, Dr. Potter has pledged to avoid appearing on single-sex panels whenever possible. He has also promised to include at least one woman as a principal subject expert in every CNS grant proposal; commit to gender parity in the distribution of CNS graduate research assistantships every semester; and ensure that there is gender parity in the CNS Summer Undergraduate Fellowship Program.

These measures are designed to promote established and emerging women experts who are underrepresented in nuclear policy despite their qualifications. Addressing this systemic problem has important implications for international security. As Dr. Potter has noted,

There are at least two dimensions to the issue of the relevance of gender equity to nuclear policy. The first aspect is to assure that the most talented and committed individuals—regardless of gender—have an equal opportunity to pursue careers in the field and to advance based on their merits. The second dimension concerns the importance of diversity in enhancing decision making, especially in the sphere of nuclear risk reduction, arms control, and nonproliferation.

This perspective reflects the emphasis Dr. Potter has long placed on bringing diverse voices into the discourse surrounding nuclear weapons and their means of control. As he notes,

I have always been a champion of recruiting the best and the brightest with respect to the work of CNS and that often has involved encouraging young women to pursue careers in the field. It is necessary, however, to overcome a number of structural impediments in the US educational system that makes it very difficult for young women (and young people, more generally) to gain exposure to core issues regarding the dangers of nuclear weapons and means to mitigate them. I have devoted much of my professional life to promoting disarmament and nonproliferation education, and I believe it is now more vital than ever to expand opportunities in this area to as diverse an audience as possible.

To this end, the Center initiated its own series of activities aimed at increasing the number of young women who pursue careers in nuclear policy earlier this year. In September 2018, CNS launched its Young Women in Nonproliferation Initiative, which helps women undergraduates professionalize their interest in this domain through lectures and events, resources, and mentorship. In combination with the commitments Dr. Potter has undertaken as a Gender Champion in Nuclear Policy, these activities will help create an environment where more women want to work in this field and are able to do so long term. These outcomes will create a more inclusive, creative, and productive discourse around nuclear weapons at a time when it is desperately needed.

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