In UAE’s nuclear industry, gender ceilings don’t exist

Right from initiation of the civil programme, women’s participation was a given

Gulf News

Women in the UAE continue to play a crucial role in the growth of our nation and its economy. The UAE’s peaceful nuclear energy programme is a clear example of the significant impact women are having on the development of a new economic sector and the nation as a whole.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) was founded in 2009 with a vision to power the future growth and prosperity of the UAE through the delivery of safe and sustainable energy as well as the development of a robust knowledge-based peaceful nuclear energy economy, while complying with Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030.

Building an entire industry from the ground up necessitated innovative thinking and highlighted the importance of empowering women as active contributors to the UAE’s peaceful nuclear energy programme. The development of a nuclear energy economy is a long-term investment in much more than just electricity generation.

We have dedicated ourselves to bringing in and training the best local and international talent, regardless of gender, as we continue to build the physical infrastructure and finalise the contractual framework for this new industry. Before we began our Energy Pioneers programme in 2009 — which includes the Higher Diploma in Nuclear Technology at Abu Dhabi Polytechnic and the Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree programs at Khalifa University — there were very few avenues for Emiratis to enter the nuclear energy industry.

At the time, the UAE had only one qualified nuclear engineer — Hamad AlKaabi — who is now the country’s Ambassador to Austria and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), among other distinguished positions. Today, Enec employs hundreds of Emirati nuclear specialists, 20 per cent of whom are women.

Women have played a crucial role in the development of our plant in Barakah as well as serving as excellent communicators and interlocutors between ENEC and the wider public. As Enec’s CEO, I have welcomed and witnessed first-hand the pivotal role women play in our industry and the UAE as a whole.

Women occupy a wide range of positions across Enec and our subsidiaries, from support staff to nuclear engineers and project managers. In fact, about 10 per cent of employees based at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant site are female.

Overall, in what is a stereotypically male-dominated field, the proportion of female employees at Enec is higher than the global average. This is a clear demonstration of how we are working to develop the UAE’s peaceful nuclear energy economy and contribute to reshaping the industry worldwide.

The leadership provided by Her Highness Shaikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, Supreme President of the Family Development Foundation, and Head of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, is one of the key drivers for encouraging women to become role models in UAE’s society.

The guidance of Shaikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Deputy Chairman of Enec’s Board of Directors and Minister of State for Tolerance, has also played an important role in promoting the importance of empowering women to build a unified and strong nation.

Shaikha Lubna’s efforts to empower women at Enec and its subsidiaries have been echoed by Lady Barbara Judge, Board Member of the International Advisory Board, who regularly follows up with Enec and Nawah on the issue and encourages all of us to do more to engage female nuclear professionals.

Every year on August 28, the whole UAE celebrates the achievements of Emirati women in the sustainable development of our country. Additionally, this year we were equally proud to host the 24th Women in Nuclear Annual Global Conference in Abu Dhabi. At the conference, the achievements of women who have dedicated their professional lives to careers in highly-skilled and technical jobs such as nuclear engineering, were recognised and showcased as role models for all young women around the world.

It is the vision of women such as Shaikha Fatima and Shaikha Lubna who have led us to where we are today. Women form an integral part of the UAE’s Peaceful Nuclear Energy Programme and I believe that women will have an ever brighter future in the UAE nuclear energy economy.

The writer is CEO of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation.

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