Logo from women's side event at 2021 IAEA GC

NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby joined women from around the world at a virtual side event during the IAEA General Conference in Vienna, Austria, last month focused on the challenges facing women in the fields of nuclear and radiological security and the contributions they have made.

The event was part of an NNSA Nuclear Security Women’s Initiative, which works internationally to highlight, empower, and amplify women’s voices in all aspects of nuclear and radiological security. The initiative’s goal is to address the root challenges that limit the representation, visibility, and career development of female professionals by providing education, training, research, networking, and professional development.

Panelists from five continents provided their insight and experiences working in nuclear security for over 200 virtual participants. The U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, also shared her perspective as part of the esteemed slate of speakers.

By achieving gender parity, we open the door to bringing innovative ideas and fresh perspectives to the table.

Jill Hruby
NNSA Administrator

During her remarks to the group, Under Secretary Jenkins acknowledged that “it can be very hard to retain confidence and focus when you are the only person of your gender or ethnicity in the room,” and encouraged participants to “draw strength from the fact that everyone endures occasional self-doubt. We only succeed to the extent we learn to adapt and overcome those feelings.”

Administrator Hruby emphasized the need to support and increase opportunities for women in nuclear and radiological security, recruit the next generation of women leaders and experts, and discussed the impact that mentors and role models can have on women’s growth in the field.

“When it comes to addressing the ever-evolving challenges and risks we face in our work every day, we need to have the best talent and diverse perspectives on our team,” Administrator Hruby said. “By achieving gender parity, we open the door to bringing innovative ideas and fresh perspectives to the table.”

The event highlighted successful women in the field and provided a forum to discuss common challenges women face entering, staying, and excelling in a historically male-dominated profession, where the number of women in some disciplines is as low as 20 percent of the workforce.

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NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby discusses women in nuclear and radiological security at a 2021 IAEA GC side event.

The event also provided a space to learn about institutional or leadership support and actions that were effective for the panelists and the tremendous opportunities their institutions will gain by actively addressing gender diversity and equity.

NNSA plans to leverage the NSW Initiative, relationships, resources, and experiences of the participants and their organizations, as well as those attending the General Conference, to increase the participation of women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups. Doing so will not only help strengthen the global material security profession but also society at large.