IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
Statement by HE Mr Richard Sadleir, Resident Representative of Australia to the IAEA
Agenda Item 11: Any Other Business
18 June 2020
Thank you Chair
Australia is pleased to deliver this statement on behalf of the Group of Friends for Women in Nuclear. A group founded to support the IAEA in increasing to parity the representation of women in the Secretariat.
The Group has been discussing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the professional gender parity goal. The crisis has both exposed the urgency of addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment, and provided us with an opportunity to optimally rebuild some of our structures.
Women are more exposed to the social impacts of COVID-19 as they are more heavily represented in many of the essential industries and occupations critical to fighting the virus, and bear significant responsibility in communities and families. Sadly, data also indicates an increase in domestic violence against women globally since the outbreak, due in part to special vulnerabilities for women linked to movement restrictions.
The Group urges all member states to take advantage of the multitude of official resources available to them, including various UN reports. Only by understanding the family, educational, financial and professional challenges faced by women and girls in times of crisis, can we put support mechanisms in place to remove further barriers to gender parity for women in the nuclear field, and more broadly.
The world is facing a ‘new normal’. The relaunching of educational, social and economic activities is an opportunity for us to question the status quo, and reimagine the way in which we do things in the workforce to rebuild with greater gender equality in mind.
The Group is pleased to hear of IAEA gender equality initiatives in progress, and we welcome the personal commitment of the Director General to gender parity. The IAEA has recently adopted special measures for the achievement of the Director General’s goal of gender parity by 2025, which target recruitment procedures for the professional and higher categories. The Agency has reported the performance indicators for 2019 to the UN Women System-Wide Action Plan Secretariat. The latest available results (2018) indicated that the Agency had met or exceeded 59 per cent of the indicators. This was in comparison with UN agencies with a technical focus, which averaged 34 per cent.
The COVID-19 response for all countries is resource intensive. However, it is important that gender equality initiatives continue, and we urge the Agency to allocate the appropriate resources and leadership to reach the gender equality objectives, targets and performance indicators, as outlined in its Gender Equality Policy, the revised Gender Action Plan, and UN-SWAP. The Group further calls on Member States to support the Secretariat in this regard.
Now is the best time to push for flexible working arrangements that allow for inclusive workplaces. We know that working remotely is effective, that there are productivity gains to be had, and that burdens at home can and must be shared amongst genders.
We could use remote work tools to expand access to candidates when recruiting, to allow the inclusion of video interviews with women who may be further away or not able to attend in person due to family commitments. Let’s accelerate the inclusion of women in STEM fields, including nuclear, in order to expand our world’s expert network in developing solutions to global challenges such as COVID-19.
The Group understands that the IAEA Office of Internal Oversight Services is conducting an assessment of flexible working arrangements, in order to benchmark against other UN organisations. The Group is eager to know the results of this study, and in learning more about the Agency’s strategy for updating policies and practices focused on both gender considerations, and in gaining savings and efficiencies.
The Group welcomes the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme, which was launched by the Director General on 9 March. This fellowship programme is a valuable initiative that will support the careers of women in nuclear science and technologies, and thus promote their effective participation in the STEM workforce.
The Group notes with encouragement that several Member States have already pledged funding for the Programme, and invites Member States in a position to do so to make in-kind or financial contributions to this initiative.
We also encourage those who share our gender equality goals to join the Group of Friends for Women in Nuclear by making your interest known to Australia or Mexico.
In closing, can I say a personal thanks to the Group’s Co-Chair, Ambassador Buenrostro-Massieu of Mexico, who was a spearhead in establishing this Group and has been an inspirational leader ever since. As this is likely to be the Ambassador’s last Board of Governors Meeting, I would like to reiterate the thanks of the Group and highlight her important contribution.