In Japanese, the word “Joshikai” refers to a women’s gathering. These meetings offer girls and women an opportunity to exchange views with friends or peers on their work, studies or any other given topic.
Embracing this notion, the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) returned to Fukushima, Japan to host it’s 7th “Joshikai in Fukushima 2023” International Mentoring Workshop. 40 female high-school from around Japan, though mostly from Fukushima, participated in the workshop. In addition, for the first time, nine female students from Romania joined the event, giving the workshop a unique, international aspect which enhanced the experience for all the students. The workshop took place in Fukushima on 29-31 July.
The purpose of the workshop was to give students the opportunity to hear from and interact with several female leaders from the Japanese and international nuclear sector. Over three days, the students listened to lectures, took part in mentoring roundtables and visited the Fukushima Daiichi site.
The “Joshikai in Fukushima” is part of an event series which has seen the NEA collaborate with Japan’s Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF) to provide students with the opportunity to learn about the possibilities that a career in the nuclear sector could offer. The goal is to help develop the pipeline of talented and skilled workers that the nuclear industry requires to succeed.
“These young women are poised to make significant contributions to society in the years ahead, including to the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi facility and the socioeconomic revitalisation of the region. This important project offers unparalleled opportunities for pioneering technical innovations, from which all countries can benefit,” said NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV, who attended the workshop.
Aleshia Duncan, International Mentoring Workshop Co-Chair and mentor and Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Nuclear Energy Policy and Cooperation at the US Department of Energy (DOE), attended the workshop and highlighted that this was a special edition, with the opportunity to welcome nine students from Romania to participate in the event.
“Giving young women the opportunity to engage with STEM studies during high school is the first step toward improving gender balance in the nuclear sector. This year, we were able to take nine Romanian girls to the mentoring workshop in Japan to engage with forty Japanese high school girls. It was an amazing weekend which included a visit to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant,” said the workshop Co-Chair.
Aleshia Duncan, International Mentoring Workshop Co-Chair and mentor and Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Nuclear Energy Policy and Cooperation at US DOE talking to the students.
The workshop facilitated a ‘Teachers’ Session’ with senior members from NEA and NDF, as well as teachers from different schools in Japan. These roundtable discussions between the students, teachers, NEA Director-General Magwood and NDF President Yamana provided a valuable opportunity for the students to ask questions on a range of STEM-related topics.
NDF President, Hajimu Yamana, addressing the workshop students.
The NEA was pleased to welcome Dr Kimiko Murofushi, Professor Emeritus at Ochanomizu University as Co-Chair of the workshop via online, who during her career in life sciences and science education has helped improve Japan’s science literacy and support women’s education in developing countries.
A number of other women leaders in the nuclear sector were invited to act as mentors, including: Miyoko Watanabe, Executive Director of Nihon University and workshop Deputy Co-Chair; Dana Niculae, Operator at the Horia Hulubei National Institute for R&D in Physics and Nuclear Engineering; Yukiko Kamijyo, Professor at the Kyushu Institute of Technology Advanced Research and Social Collaboration Headquarters Industry; Nina Cromnier, Former Director General at the Swedish Radiation Safety; Narie Sasaki, Specially-Appointed Professor at the Institute for Gendered Innovations, Ochanomizu University; Diane Cameron, Head of Nuclear Technology Development and Economics Division at the NEA; and Hikaru Fuchu from TEPCO Power Grid, Inc.
The NEA mentoring workshops help to address the issue of a significant gender imbalance in the nuclear sector, with women facing undue challenges in their pursuit of careers and leadership positions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), including in nuclear technology. This represents a tremendous loss of potential innovation and growth and a critical threat to the viability of the field. Attracting more women to train as highly skilled technical workers and to become future leaders in nuclear technology has become an increasingly important focus for many NEA member countries, including Japan.
The “Joshikai in Fukushima” is part of an event series between the NEA and NDF teach students about the possibilities that a career in the nuclear sector could offer.
Speaking at the mentoring workshop, Hajimu Yamana, President of NDF, said: “It is predicted that if more female students take an interest in the challenges of science and engineering, that will not only contribute to the development of science and technology and industry in Japan, but it will also help people all over the country find more meaning in their lives and everyday activities.”
Follow this link for more on the NEA’s work on improving gender balance in the nuclear sector.