Speaking Points for Rumina Velshi, President and CEO of CNSC at the 10th Meeting of the NEA Task Group, Improving Gender Balance in the Nuclear Sector, NEA Headquarters, Boulogne-Billancourt, France, June 29-30, 2023



Good morning , bonjour à tous.

It is a pleasure, as always, to address this Task Group.

I’m not going to dwell on statistics today. We all know them. We know the challenge before us.

Even in Canada – my home, and a country that typically prides itself on the pursuit of equity – the gender balance in the nuclear field remains lopsided.

Forty years ago, when I began working in a nuclear facility, I was proud to be a pioneer for my gender.

None of the PPE fit me. There were no change rooms for women.

But I wore the discrimination as a sort of badge of honour. I would say to myself: “This is the cost of leading the way for others.”

Four decades later, I note with pride that some women have indeed followed me through the door.

But not enough. Not nearly enough.

I will be candid: I thought we’d be much further along by now.

And here’s what’s so important to understand: This is about so much more than equality for equality’s sake.

It’s about truly, fully, and finally achieving our potential.

When we empower women, when we embrace diversity and inclusion, we broaden our collective horizon.

We get better at what we do.

And everyone benefits.

So, what can we do?

We first need to do the obvious stuff.

We need to root out those who still allow or empower hostility, or the more subtle micro aggressions against women in their workplaces.

And we need to understand that some women are going to want to raise a family – and they’ll look elsewhere for a career if they don’t feel supported in nuclear… or if they feel that their pregnancy is an impediment on their career prospects.

We also need to redouble our efforts to persuade more young women to pursue education and careers in the STEM disciplines.

As an industry, we need to hire them and mentor them – so that others follow in their footsteps.

We need to create an environment where they feel welcomed upon arrival – and fulfilled throughout their working lives.

In a time when more and more countries are pursuing both energy security and net-zero targets, nuclear power is poised to be a growth industry.

We are going to need smart people to design these facilities – to build them, to run them, to regulate them.

These are ideal conditions for both growing and transforming our workplaces.

Yes, the scope of the challenge is significant. Perhaps even daunting.

But what better way to adapt to a changing world than to infuse our industry with new energy and new perspectives – and ensure it is attracting the best and brightest of all genders and backgrounds?

Those of us gathered here today – we share a vision.

And I hope that many of you feel – as I do – that we are close to a breakthrough.

The new policy instrument from the OECD Ministerial Council is an important step and a useful tool.

We should take pride in having advocated for it.

But we must also carry the light from these meetings back to our own countries.

The hard work happens at home.

During my term as President, I have put a priority on advancing gender equity not only at the CNSC, but in the Canadian Nuclear sector and also amongst the global nuclear regulators’ community. For the latter, we have established the International Gender Champion Impact Group for Nuclear Regulators. For this impact group, each regulator has made an unequivocal commitment to gender equity by signing a Charter document.

We have set specific goals. And importantly, we have demonstrated accountability by reporting on how our respective organizations are either failing, meeting, or even surpassing these goals.

With each of these initiatives, we are proclaiming: We are stronger, we are smarter, and we are more effective when everyone has a seat at the table.

This is my final address to this group as President and CEO at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

I want to thank you for your fellowship, your collaboration, and your inspiration.

And I want to encourage you to continue to use gatherings like this to highlight successes, share best practices, and renew your commitment to this noble cause.

Our pursuit of balance has taken longer than we imagined – longer than it should have taken.

But we must not become disheartened.

The fuller question here is one of hope – and the only question is when will our hope be realized.

There will come a moment when our persistence pays off.

Ahead of us, hard work remains. Obstacles and challenges remain.

But optimism remains as well – and a vision for an industry that accelerates toward balance and equality.

An industry that provides a welcoming environment for one and all…

An industry viewed as a career of choice by all those with the skills and talent to pursue it…

An industry that has, at long last, achieved its potential.

Thank you.

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