The More Things Change
I hadn't expected to be writing about women in the nuclear field twice in one month, but shortly after I reported on historic election at the American Nuclear Society, where 3 out of 4 new board members elected were women, two articles on women in the nuclear industry were in the news in the past week.
These stories report on progress in the utility sector. One is an interview on NPR with Maria Korsnick, the first woman in the US to become a Chief Nuclear Officer (at Exelon), and the other is a personal reflection by Sarah Kovaleski, the first woman at Ameren Missouri to hold the position of Director of Engineering Design.
The first message from these two stories being reported so closely together and so soon after the ANS election is that things really are changing. It's good to see that women are being recognized more and more, both by management and by their peers, and I congratulate both these women.
The other message that I get from these two stories is that some of the changes are taking far longer than I had expected. Since I entered the nuclear field well before these two women, I am almost surprised to hear them report some of the same things I experienced: being the only woman in a group; awkward moments over matters of protocol, like dress code and shaking hands; a lack of ladies rooms; etc.
Most striking is the fact that both articles report that there are nine men to every woman in the industry. I think that the trend is changing and that, as the recent grads become a larger fraction of the workforce, we will see the disparity reduced. In the meantime, for those who do not realize what the challenges that women still face in the engineering world, it is instructive to read these two reports.