The rise of female nuclear engineers | Women's Agenda

The rise of female nuclear engineers

There was a time when no one would have thought women would dominate in the field of nuclear engineering. And yet? Women are taking charge and becoming the leaders in this traditionally male-dominated field.

Nuclear energy is a highly technical science, that more and more females are studying. As it stands, women have progressed so far that the Women In Nuclear organisation now has over 25,000 members in 102 countries and their membership is consistently growing.

For women who have an interest in this field the support is certainly there, and there is a growing pool of jobs in energy, radiation and construction for them to progress into.

When I graduated with a degree in engineering, I felt one thing – pride. I was proud to have accomplished a degree in a unique area and proud to know that I was adding to the small number of female engineers. I started my career in a lab and progressed into different many fields, travelling globally to work on construction sites. I have now taken a different path into writing but I want to introduce you to a few female engineers who are taking charge.

Kathryn A. McCarthy: Deputy for Nuclear Science and Technology at the Idaho National Laboratory

Kathryn McCarthy is a successful American engineer who was initially tempted to follow her passion for the clarinet into a music career. Her aptitude for maths and science at school, however, turned her mind to engineering.

She was inspired into the nuclear field because of her family roots; her father was a chemical engineer. In my opinion, having a role model who inspires you to succeed, can be a valuable driver, particularly in a non-conventional career path, like nuclear engineering was.

Kathryn’s career has taken her to Germany and the Soviet Union, but she has predominately worked in America in fusion and fission technology. She is a powerful woman in the nuclear industry and is responsible for $250 million worth of research programs and new developments.

Kelle Barfield: Vice-president Entergy Corporation

Kelle Barfield started her career in nuclear journalism and is now an influential advocate in the industry. Twenty five years ago Barfield started as a technical editor in the field and it helped shape her substantial understanding of the sector. She has remained actively involved in nuclear since. In her current role she seeks to raise awareness in the public about nuclear energy and create policies in the field. Her bold thinking and expertise lead many nuclear engineers – men and women – in this field.

Susan Hoxie-Key: Nuclear fuel services manager Southern Nuclear Operating Company

Susan Hoxie-Key grew up following space programs and knew, from an early age, that she wanted to study engineering in college. For her, it has remained a passion that hasn’t abated. Whilst studying she thought nuclear energy seemed particularly interesting so she went down that path and hasn’t looked back. She has worked in core design and nuclear fuel procurement. She says that being able to design in the field of her passion, put her ideas into motion and create electricity, is hugely satisfying.

It’s a career women are happy to have

These are just three women who might inspire other women to consider careers in engineering and nuclear energy. Are you interested in working in this field? Personally I hope more and more young women explore this field as an educational and professional choice. The possibilities are endless.

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