Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Women in STEM Initiative
Empowering Women to Pursue an Education and Career in STEM
Why is gender equity important in the nuclear sector?
It is the year 2022—honestly, why are we still asking that question?
According to a survey conducted by Women in Nuclear Canada in 2020, women only make up 22% of the nuclear sector—that includes women both in STEM and non-STEM jobs (Women in Nuclear Canada Member Survey). To paraphrase CNSC President Rumina Velshi, gender equity and, more broadly, equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) are more than just priorities or flavours of the month, They are values integral to the DNA of CNSC. Diverse perspectives are important to a healthy safety culture and they foster innovation and trust—essentials for any agile and forward-thinking organization.
What is CNSC doing about it?
In recognition of the need for gender equity in the nuclear sector, and to continue to build on a reputation that values STEM education and careers, CNSC launched the Women in STEM (WISTEM) initiative in 2019 under the leadership of President Velshi. The initiative aims to raise awareness and enable the active involvement of girls and women in STEM fields in collaboration with interested partners in government, industry, and academia.
With the support of a WISTEM special advisor and a “tiger team” of talented individuals from across the organization, the WISTEM Initiative developed a strategic plan to guide their work for 2020-2023. The Initiative has five main pillars:
- Networking builds relationships, provides opportunities to share tactics for navigating all stages of one’s STEM career, and promotes discussion on STEM-related topics.
- The Coaching and Mentoring Task Force helps staff develop, improve, and implement mindsets and behaviors, and gives them tools and strategies to increase their confidence and competency in their STEM work life.
- The Outreach Task Force improves outreach and develops tools that CNSC staff can use for outreach activities.
- The Research Task Force builds the capacity of women to take on STEM research careers.
- Advocacy supports CNSC’s efforts to demonstrate leadership and strive for concrete change on a national and international stage. President Velshi, in addition to the many events/panels/workshops she speaks to regarding gender equity, leads Driving Advancement of Women in Nuclear (DAWN) as well as the International Gender Champions Impact Group on Gender Equality in Nuclear Regulatory Agencies.
What has the Initiative done for you, personally?
As a woman in STEM, a tiger team member, and now the CNSC’s WISTEM special advisor, I have a tremendous opportunity to work with very accomplished and smart people. I continue to learn from them and to be inspired by them every day. The initiative itself has provided me and others with opportunities to experience coaching and to hone our leadership skills. It continues to help me build confidence in my abilities and to pay it forward.
What can CRPA do to improve gender equity?
Last year I participated in Rad Women in Canada, an event co-hosted by CRPA and CNSC. I had a lovely time and we received great feedback about the value of these types of events. I hope to see more of these from CRPA and I kindly challenge CRPA to do more! These are great opportunities to create awareness and encourage girls and women to pursue an education and careers in STEM, including radiation protection.
What’s on the horizon for CNSC’s WISTEM Initiative?
2022 and 2023 will both be exciting years for CNSC’s WISTEM Initiative:
- CNSC will launch their WISTEM mentoring and coaching programs.
- The first Nuclear Energy Agency International Mentorship Workshop hosted in Canada is coming in 2023 and will focus on Indigenous girls.
- With contributions from the CNSC and Canada, the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) Gender Balance Task Group policy will be publishing policy documents addressing gender equity.
- The Strategic Plan is expiring and this will be a time for reflection and ideas for the future.
Where can I learn more?