National Nuclear Laboratory


Thursday 8 June 2023

Committing to improve the nuclear sector’s gender balance 

8 June, 2023 – Paris – A new OECD Recommendation will help governments to attract more women into the nuclear sector and develop more female leaders, ensuring its sustainability and contribution to net zero.   

The 38 countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have agreed upon a new, focused approach to improve the gender balance in the nuclear sector. They call on national authorities and the industry to take action to increase the representation of women in the sector and enhance their contributions –especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles and leadership positions.  

Currently, women make up just 20% of the nuclear science and engineering workforce in Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) member countries and represent a very small fraction of upper management. They often experience hostility in their nuclear workplaces and negative career impacts due to pregnancy and family responsibilities. This absence of diversity and barriers to women’s full participation in the sector represents a loss of potential innovation and growth and a critical threat to the viability of the field. 

Dr Fiona Rayment OBE, Chief Science and Technology Officer at National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), who chaired the NEA Task Group that oversaw the work, said: “Nuclear power is primed to enable our energy security and net zero commitments to be realised, however, this requires recruitment and retention of a highly diverse workforce.  

“As such, I am absolutely delighted to see the policy instrument on gender balance has been adopted by the OECD. This builds on the hard work and dedication of the NEA Gender Balance Task Group members, which will have a real impact on improving wider diversity ambitions across the nuclear sector internationally as we look ahead to the future.” 
William D. Magwood, IV, Director-General of the Nuclear Energy Agency, said: “The persistent gender gap in the nuclear sector impacts the future viability of nuclear energy around the world. The NEA made it a priority to move beyond simply discussing the issue and to work with its member countries to develop a focused and specific policy framework to make a real difference to improve the gender balance in the nuclear sector. We expect to see that a broad range of organisations stand ready to work with governments to implement these policy recommendations.” 

Governments are highly influential in the nuclear sector due to their extensive involvement in nuclear technology activities. The recommendations agreed by OECD countries will help attract more women to nuclear science and technology careers and remove barriers to their advancement in nuclear science. 

NEA analyses highlight that total nuclear energy production needs to triple by 2050 for governments around the world to achieve net zero emissions. To achieve this, the nuclear sector must grow and diversify its workforce, but this will be extremely difficult unless it attracts more women.  

The OECD Recommendation follows the recent NEA report Gender Balance in the Nuclear Sector which included the first publicly available international data on the topic.