IAEA Initiative to Bridge Gender Gap in Nuclear Science Draws Over €1.5 Million in Early Funding


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has so far received pledges totalling over €1.5 million in extrabudgetary funding for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme, a new initiative to encourage women from around the world to pursue careers in nuclear science and help close the gender gap in the nuclear field.

Named in recognition of the pioneering physicist and two-time Nobel Prize Laureate, the fellowship programme was launched by Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi during an IAEA event marking International Women’s Day in March. By supporting their education and work experience, the initiative aimes to encourage young women to study and work in nuclear science and technology or non-proliferation.

Gender equality is a priority area for Director General Grossi: “Women often do not have equal access to education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This inhibits their chances of finding employment in those areas. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme offers a unique opportunity for the IAEA to support gender parity in nuclear science and technology. We are grateful for the support several Member States have given to this initiative.”

During the launch event for the fellowship in March, many IAEA Member States expressed strong support for the initiative and a readiness to support it financially. The extrabudgetary funding announced for the fellowship includes €240,000 allocated from the United States and 1.5 million Norwegian crowns from Norway. During the June 15-19 IAEA Board of Governor’s meeting, Canada pledged C$1.2m and Japan €500,000. In addition, China announced it will sponsor ten fellowships per year.

The fellowship programme will provide scholarships for up to two years for women pursuing a graduate degree in nuclear science and technology or non-proliferation studies. The fellows will also be offered the chance to intern at the IAEA, in order to supplement the expert knowledge gained during their studies.

“Equipping women with scientific education and work experience will promote equal representation in the application of nuclear technologies to meet our shared global challenges such as climate change, growing populations and food insecurity,” Mr Grossi said.

The programme will fund at least 100 students for the scholarships, at an estimated total cost in the range of €4-6 million for a two-year period. “I encourage other Member States to contribute to the fellowship programme so that we can build a new generation of female leaders in nuclear science and non-proliferation, who will drive scientific and technological developments in their home countries,” Mr Grossi added.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie’s pioneering research on radioactivity in the late 1800s paved the way for its peaceful use in countless applications for the benefit of humankind. The fellowship programme honours her as the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person, and still the only woman, to be awareded with two Nobel Prizes. The first 100 fellows will be selected in 2020 to start the fellowship programme with the 2021-22 academic year.

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