A senior government figure has urged firms in the nuclear industry to set challenging female recruitment targets – and hunt for the next Jane Austin.
Energy minister Andrea Leadsom said she wanted the sector to provide a strong female presence and strong female role models.
More than 100,000 full-time equivalent posts are expected to be created in the nuclear energy and defence programmes in 2021, Leadsom said.
Yet currently just 8% of nuclear industry board members are women, along with fewer than one in five workers in the sector.
Leadsom said at a conference in London: “As we deliver the UK’s nuclear programme over the decades to come, it is imperative that we address the skills gap.
“The nuclear industry thrives on innovation in areas such as decommissioning and small modular reactors. A diverse workforce is far more likely to support innovation.”
She added: “By not attracting women to the sector, we will be, by default, recruiting from a much smaller pool than we need to.”
The minister hailed a 10-point charter created by the Women in Nuclear group and signed by 30 companies. But she urged business leaders to go further.
“I urge you to review the targets you have set for your organisations on the recruitment of women and set new, more ambitious goals.”
Leadsom added that British women had made their mark on history.
“Jane Austen the great novelist; Dorothy Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964; and Helen Sharman was the first British woman in space,” she said.
“We look to them, and many others, with pride, and revel in their legacy that changed our society forever.
“I want the nuclear industry to be a launch pad for the next generation of world changing women pioneers.”
Bechtel and nuclear technology firm BWX Technologies this week agreed to work together to develop a commercially viable state-of-the-art small modular nuclear reactor.
Meanwhile, EDF Energy was said to be “devoted” to making a decision on the long-awaited Hinkley Point C new nuclear project.