Being a woman in the nuclear sector

Being a woman in the nuclear sector

29 March 2019
Engineer genderdiversity Nuclear
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Women, the future of the nuclear energy ?

Specialised in project management, Anne-Sophie’s somewhat atypical career led to one of the most interesting positions: working on the Middle East’s first nuclear programme, where four new nuclear power plants will deliver power to the region. Amna, has just graduated as a mechanical engineer and has joined Assystem UK to design the advanced tools used in the nuclear industry.

All roads lead to nuclear

With very different paths, Anne-Sophie and Amna have both been attracted by this demanding sector that is nuclear.

Anne-Sophie’s interest in project management grew during her studies. “As a business school student, I opted to specialise in logistics and supply chain, but I quickly understood that I needed to develop more specific skills. On the advice of one of my teachers, I undertook the Prince 2 certification in project management “.

After some experiments in France and abroad, particularly in the field of transport, Anne-Sophie emigrated to the United Arab Emirates, and pushed the door of nuclear power. “I was very interested in the field of energy, and the ambitious projects launched in the UAE gave me the opportunity to enter this demanding sector.” Employed at Assystem for more than 4 years, Anne-Sophie has gradually evolved, combining project management skills with new responsibilities in business development related to the plant. “I am currently working on a fantastic project involving 50 to 60 different nationalities. It’s very galvanizing! “

For her part, Amna admits that she let herself be “chosen” by the field of nuclear energy. “I am proud to be the first engineer in the family! During my studies, I chose the field of mechanical engineering to keep my options open. And in parallel, I worked as an apprentice at Chinook Sciences, in industrial design. So, once I graduated, I wanted to continue in this field, and I was seduced by the opportunity to work in a niche so specialised that is the tooling in the nuclear field. This is just the beginning, I’m learning, but it’s very rewarding! “

To be a woman or not to be in the nuclear sector, that is not the question

Amna, a newcomer to the nuclear industry, has never been victim of discriminatory comments, sexist acts or inequalities by claiming “never seen any difference in treatment, either in interviews, or now in the office. Even if it would be nice to have more female engineers “.

Anne-Sophie also confirms this feeling. “Contrary to popular belief, being a woman in a sector that is perceived as traditionally masculine, which is more in a region where gender differences may seem (wrongly) important, has never been a problem for me,” explains Anne-Sophie. “In my job, being a man or a woman is not in focus. What matters are the skills.

Anne-Sophie also reports on the relationships she has with her colleagues and the stereotypes that Europeans can have about the Middle East regarding discrimination, sexism and lack of equality between men and women. which she has not been confronted with.

“I am currently working directly with ENEC, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, which owns the nuclear power plants under construction, and Nawah Energy Company, a nuclear operator. This project of which I am a part is international and perfectly mixed, although I myself rarely work directly with other women. I have very good relations with all my colleagues, male and female. “

“And in terms of cultural clichés that Europeans might have from the United Arab Emirates, these rarely reflect reality! The UAE is very open compared to other countries in the Middle East. Local women wear the veil, but do not cover their faces. Men also wear traditional clothes, a long white outfit worn with a turban. As for foreigners, the constraints are low in terms of clothing, for the men as for the women! “

Evolution of mentalities at work

For Anne-Sophie, the place of women in engineering and particularly in the nuclear sector is becoming stronger despite a still low gender parity for women. “For me, if only 20% of positions in the nuclear industry are held by women (according to the Women in Nuclear Europe Association), it is not so much by sexism as by lack of available resources. The project I am working on requires a lot of skilled staff, men and women alike. But few women choose to train in this area.

So, to really change things and get a bigger mix, I am convinced that awareness must take place very early, at school. “Many women are afraid of not being at the technical level,” says Amna. “Integrating more technology projects into the school would desacralise engineering and make it more accessible, especially to young people.”

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Anne-Sophie Rodde

Business & Project Manager Assystem

Amna Jelani

Mechanical Engineer Assystem

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