Shadow energy minister backs calls for more women in nuclear

4 March 2016

Women have always played a key role in developing nuclear science but more needs to be done to encourage women into science and engineering, shadow energy minister Lisa Nandy told a Nuclear Futures event today (Friday).

Outlining the contribution made by three generations of female nuclear physicists in the Curie family alone, Nandy said there was a wide gap between the government rhetoric and reality.

Nandy was speaking at an event in Warrington organised by Prospect and Women In Nuclear a campaign group that seeks to address the industry’s gender balance and engage with the public on nuclear issues.

The government says it wants more women in the sector, but the Department of Energy and Climate Change has the biggest gender pay gap in Whitehall, she said.

Describing the uncertainty facing the UK’s power supply given the number of coal-fired and aging nuclear power plants set to close, she added that:

“It angers me too that the energy sector is devaluing the contribution of women because of the immensity of the challenges we must address, which will require everyone’s talent.”

The MP outlined the opportunities for skilled, well-paid work, including in the supply chain, that the UK nuclear industry could provide to communities outside London and the South East of England. She said the government is right to say it has job creation in its sights, but all too often it ignores the quality of those jobs.

“Through innovation in our own universities and businesses, Britain can be at the fore of the next generation of nuclear research.”

That is why, Nandy said, she would hold the government to its promise of £250m for nuclear innovation, investment in better careers advice and education, and work experience and apprenticeships.

“Britain cannot afford for these funds to suddenly ‘disappear’ like the budgets did for other energy innovation projects.”

She also praised Prospect for its campaigning work on the issue, adding:

“We cannot afford not to open up the energy world to talented young people from communities like Warrington, to continue to deprive ourselves of the talent we need in the face of the risks posed by climate change and energy insecurity.

“I want a girl in Warrington or Wigan today to grow up knowing that she will have the opportunity to build a sparkling scientific career.”

Prospect deputy general secretary Sue Ferns said: “With around 20,000 Prospect members working in STEM, we are acutely aware of the skills challenge these roles face and their vital contribution to building a more sustainable economy.

“We talked today about the importance of a strong and sustained political impetus in order to speed up the process of change. Both women and men need access to high-quality skilled jobs and the economy needs to make use of all of the talent pool.”