Paris, 26 July 2017

Encouraging female scientists of the future

Encouraging female scientists of the future was the focus of the international mentoring workshop held on 25-26 July 2017 by the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), in co‑operation with Japan's National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology (QST). The two‑day workshop took place in conjunction with QST's first International Symposium "Quantum Life Science" in Chiba, Japan.

The primary participants in the workshop were 55 female high school students, accompanied by 16 teachers from various cities in Japan. The event provided the students with a rare opportunity to interact with seven highly accomplished female mentors to talk about their future careers in science and engineering.

During the two-day workshop, the mentors exchanged their real‑life experiences and shared valuable advice and insight with the students. Discussions addressed the difficulties faced by women professionals in many parts of the world and the steps that can be taken to support young women who aspire to become science and technology professionals.

Opening remarks were provided at a joint opening session for the QST symposium and the mentoring workshop by Toshiei Mizuochi, State Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT); Toshio Hirano, QST President; Aiko Shimajiri, Special Advisor to the Minister, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan; and Claudie Haigneré, Senior Advisor to the Director‑General, European Space Agency (ESA), who co‑chaired the workshop with Shizuko Kakinuma, Director of the Department of Radiation Effects Research (NIRS, QST) and Unit Leader of the QST Diversity Management Unit.

The joint opening session also featured a special video address to the students by Hélène Langevin‑Joliot, distinguished nuclear physicist and granddaughter of Marie Curie.

Participating mentors included leading female researchers from Japan and from four other countries, as well as one young mentor. Participants acknowledged the need for female role models to inspire and motivate young and aspiring female scientists. The discussions also highlighted questions about how to achieve a work-life balance and the potential benefits of studying at overseas universities.

"We hope that this workshop will show these students that successful models do exist for women to be science and technology professionals while maintaining satisfying family lives," NEA Director‑General William D. Magwood, IV, said at the joint closing session. "If they all go forward to accomplish their dreams, Japan will be a stronger country for it and the world will be a better place. We have a great deal of hope for them."

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Background notes for editors

The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) is an intergovernmental agency which operates under the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD). It facilitates co‑operation among countries with advanced nuclear technology infrastructures to seek excellence in nuclear safety, technology, science, related environmental and economic matters and law. The mission of the NEA is to assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co‑operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for a safe, environmentally sound and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It strives to provide authoritative assessments and to forge common understandings on key issues as input to government decisions on nuclear technology policies.

NEA membership includes 33 countries that co‑operate through joint research, consensus‑building among experts and development of best practices. The NEA encourages its membership to explore ways of attracting, recruiting and retaining women in science and technology, as well as enhancing the conditions and prospects for women and girls at every stage of their education and careers.

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