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Searching for and Finding Qualified Women

Women

The Points of Contact programme is instrumental in reaching out to qualified scientists and other professional women. In March 2011, the IAEA employed 278 professional women representing 68 nationalities. (Photo: K. Tischlinger/IAEA)

One of the key hurdles the IAEA faces in boosting the ranks of its professional women toward the UN goal of 50% is finding female candidates with the right scientific and technical skills and experience. To improve its search efforts, the IAEA launched the Points of Contact Programme in 2005 and has since raised the number of professional women employees to 23.3% from 18%.

The Department of Public Information spoke with Catherine Monzel, who heads the IAEA´s recruitment and staff development, and the national Points of Contact for Japan and Argentina to discuss the programme:

What problem was the Points of Contact Programme designed to address?

"We didn´t have proper mechanisms for finding women. That was something we needed to put into place, both externally and internally. We were passive when it came to the recruitment of women. If we found women they had a good chance of getting the job.

"Internally, we enhanced the scrutiny of female candidates who applied. Externally, we launched the Points of Contact Programme to help us find well-qualified women in Member States."

Catherine describes the Point of Contact initiative...

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Catherine describes the IAEA´s goals in terms of gender equality in staffing...

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We asked Nélida María Contreras de Ecker and Ayumi Homma, the Points of Contact for Argentina and Japan, respectively, about the goals and challenges they face in their roles:

AYUMI: "We need to draw more attention to the Agency´s important activities and the career opportunities there, and my colleagues and I are trying to increase the number of related institutions in Japan that receive and further distribute information from the Agency.

"Given that most of the Agency´s posts require a highly specialized background, I think everyone will agree on the importance of delivering the relevant information in a timely manner to those who meet the requirements. This is much harder than it may sound, because, to identify and address the target, you need to know the IAEA´s activities and domestic institutions that could provide candidates, you need to analyse the potential match, and last but not least you need to build a network."

NELA: "Although the measures we have taken for Argentina have been quite successful the challenges remain the same: there are still many women who do not consider applying to international organisations, particularly to technical positions. We want to reach out and inform these women about the opportunities in the technical and scientific field in these kinds of organisations."

What goals do you have as a Point of Contact?

NELA: "The most important goal for me as the Argentinean Point of Contact is, of course, to promote the recruitment of women to the IAEA, not only in Argentina, but also in the whole regional group. To do this, we plan to invite officials of South American Sections of Gender Concerns to participate in Regional Group Meetings. We hope thereby to facilitate the contact to other Member States to encourage them to start carrying out promotional activities.

"Another important goal is to develop a better network between the National and Regional Points of Contact to improve cooperation."

What do you consider the successes of the programme?

AYUMI: "It seems the IAEA is attracting greater attention in Japan, and various discussions are underway to provide more young people, including women, with the opportunities to experience the Agency. I hope the Points of Contact initiative, through which we have learned about various outreach programmes as well as the Agency´s commitment to becoming a better employer, has partly contributed to the trend."

Catherine believes the Points of Contact have played, and will continue to play, a pivotal role in fulfilling the IAEA´s goals of raising the levels of female staffing in its professional ranks.

-- By Sharman Esarey, IAEA Division of Public Information


(Note to Media: We encourage you to republish these stories and kindly request attribution to the IAEA).