By Dr. Sarah Ansari
Women’s empowerment has immensely contributed to and paid rich dividends for, the advancement of human civilization. As a woman engineer who has recently started venturing into the fascinating field of nuclear energy has realized a very dismal representation of women in the nuclear energy sector. Despite this, women have played a key role in shaping the current energy sector. Edith Clarke, for example, invented a graphing calculator that characterized long transmission lines. She not only revolutionized the electric power grid but also set an example for women to venture and succeed in the energy sector. Since then, women have held prominent positions in the electric power sector and continue to motivate other women to explore the realms of the energy sector.
Professionals in the nuclear energy sector are committed to using the safest way to produce the cleanest green electricity. Women have also contributed to nuclear science to help in shaping the nuclear energy sector. One can never forget the adventurous career of the renowned physicist and chemist Marie Curie with innovative discoveries for the nuclear energy sector. The renowned physicist, Lise Meitner is famous for her contribution to the discovery of nuclear fission. Similarly, Leona Woods Marshall Libby made a significant contribution to the world’s first controlled nuclear chain reaction. These are some of the few women who have embarked on an incredible trail in nuclear science that have benefitted the nuclear energy sector.
However, the participation of women in the nuclear energy sector is still low. According to a report “Gender Balance in the Nuclear Sector” published by Nuclear Energy Agency, women make up less than 25% of the nuclear workforce. Different energy organizations are striving to involve and ensure the visibility of more women’s participation in the nuclear energy sector. Despite the low representation of women in the male-dominated nuclear energy sector, the trailblazing mark that women have in this sector is significant. Women engaging in STEM programs must be taught the importance of nuclear energy in harnessing clean electricity.
The nuclear community all over the world is well connected. The communication level between various commercial nuclear power plants and their associated organizations is exemplary. I strongly believe that we as women of STEM must be well connected and communicate extensively to motivate the young generation of women to venture nuclear energy sector. Not only this, but the energy sector including the nuclear sector has a low representation of women doctorates in engineering or nuclear science. While attending a meeting organized by IEEE Nuclear Power Engineering Committee, held in Orlando in January 2023, a senior nuclear regulatory woman professional pointed out that she has come across only five doctorate woman professionals including herself. She has been working in the nuclear energy sector for the past 19 years and has seen low visibility of women who can break this trend. We still have a long way to harness and develop clean sources of energy. And so, we need motivated women doctorates who can revolutionize the energy sector.