NEA’s recognition of women scientists and engineers during the month of March continues as we speak with Véronique Rouyer, Head of the NEA Division of Nuclear Safety Technology and Regulation, about her views on gender balance and the status of women in STEM careers.
Véronique Rouyer is responsible for overseeing NEA activities in the fields of nuclear safety research and the regulation of nuclear facilities. She manages a team of specialists conducting studies, analyses, research and other actvities with the participation of senior experts from NEA member countries with a view to enhancing global nuclear safety.
Ms Rouyer first became interested in nuclear science when she visited a nuclear power plant with her family during her early teenage years. “The trigger point for my motivation to join the nuclear sector was when I visited a reactor for the first time,” she said. “I remember that I was dazzled!”
With this inspiration, Ms Rouyer pursued studies in chemical engineering and then obtained a postgraduate degree in nuclear engineering from the French National Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology. Before joining the NEA, she enjoyed a 15-year career with the France’s Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), most recently as the Director of Nuclear Safety Research. Previously, she also worked with the France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in a variety of leadership roles in nuclear criticality experiments and fuel cycle research.
Throughout her career, Véronique Rouyer has encouraged young women scientists and researchers to stay resilient in the face of obstacles. "When I was a manager in charge of a large team, I did my best to push the women on my team to be brave and to use their network for support. This showed them they could do and create amazing things," she noted.
Ms Rouyer also highlighted that women in science can and should have the same positions as men. “I consider that there is no difference in principle between a man and a woman if they are motivated and do their best,” she said. “Women can play all the roles, and should play all the roles. And we have a lot of examples to prove that a man and woman can have the same role and the same position.”
For Véronique Rouyer, such female role models who have been able to pursue successful careers in science and engineering are key to bridging the gender divide in STEM. It is important for technical organisations like the NEA to encourage young women to consider future opportunities centred around STEM disciplines. NEA International Mentoring Workshops have proven to be very beneficial in this regard. "During these workshops, students can interact informally with high-level mentors, and mentors can share their own real-life experiences,” she explained. “This kind of exchange can help the students get motivated to discover careers in science and technology. It can also help demystify the nuclear field.”