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Powering Canada's Future

Increasing Women’s Leadership in Canada’s Nuclear Industry: A Q&A with Lisa McBride

Lisa McBride

President of Women in Nuclear (WiN) Canada and Country Leader, GE Hitachi Small Modular Reactors, Canada

Mediaplanet sat down with Lisa McBride, President of Women in Nuclear (WiN) Canada and Country Leader, GE Hitachi Small Modular Reactors, Canada, to learn about the role of nuclear energy in Canada, how more women can achieve leadership positions in the nuclear industry, how diversity helps the industry, and what WiN Canada is doing to support the shift. 

We’re seeing a lot of information of late about nuclear energy in Canada. What role do you see nuclear energy playing in the future?

The nuclear power industry is growing at a rapid pace and is poised to support our energy demands today and into the future as we strive to meet our climate action goals. Today, we’re seeing Canada at the forefront of new nuclear, with the deployment of small modular reactors in several provinces, as well as the plans for large conventional nuclear taking shape. Nuclear energy is critical to our net-zero goals and will provide safe, reliable baseload electricity. It will support and complement other clean-energy sources, such as wind, solar, and renewables. The nuclear industry is innovative and dynamic and poised for growth as we work to meet our clean energy demands in the future. 

Can you tell us about Women in Nuclear (WiN) Canada and the role WiN plays in the nuclear industry?

Women in Nuclear (WiN) Canada is a not-for-profit organization that was established in 2004. Today, we have more than 5,000 members across Canada. More than 95 per cent of our members work in various roles in the nuclear industry. WiN has three key pillars to our mission: to provide factual information to the public about the benefits of nuclear and radiation technologies to society, to provide leadership development opportunities for women, and to promote career paths in all aspects of the nuclear industry to women and young girls. WiN works collaboratively with our membership, the industry, provincial and federal governments, and other organizations to execute these pillars and have an impact on the industry.

What advice do you have for women aiming to rise to leadership positions within the nuclear industry?

Women make a valuable contribution to nuclear, working in all aspects of the industry. From science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to business, strategic, and operational roles, the career prospects in the nuclear industry are endless, with opportunities to work in exciting and innovative areas. While women are still underrepresented in the industry, representing approximately 22 per cent of the workforce, the industry is committed to striving for gender parity, with most employer organizations being signatories of the Equal by 30 Campaign. We have more women in leadership roles now than ever before, and employers are committed to developing a gender-balanced talent pipeline. 

When it comes to leadership roles in the industry, my advice isn’t gender-specific. It’s always important for emerging leaders to leverage their strengths — find out what you’re really good at and hone those skills. I also believe that mentors play a critical role in professional development and are valuable in all aspects of leadership development. And regardless of your level in an organization, a mentor is always important. We never stop learning, and having a mentor who’s a sounding board for you will always be important. Lastly, and my personal favourite, is to take risks and bet on yourself. I’ve built an entire career on taking risks by taking on new roles, teams, and projects. The opportunity for learning and development is significant when you get out of your comfort zone.

How is WiN Canada actively working to increase diversity within the nuclear industry and to create more opportunities for underrepresented groups?

At WiN Canada, our highest strategic goal is to have an impact on the industry and the communities in which we live and work. WiN Canada has launched several programs to not only support the success of women working in the nuclear industry but also to create a positive impact on the industry in Canada and globally. This includes our leadership development program EmPOWERed Women: Taking the Stage, which enables women to view leadership through the lens of communication — supporting them in developing the skills needed to be seen as strong, confident leaders. To date, we’ve had more than 100 women in the industry complete our program, with plans to run this program through 2024.    

WiN Canada also has a formal Mentorship Program, which offers members the opportunity to engage across the industry to develop both personally and professionally. Our program welcomes members at all stages of their careers as well as students preparing to enter the workforce.

WiN Canada also has a Speakers Clearinghouse — an initiative that enables WiN Canada’s subject matter experts to engage the public and local schools, especially young females, to help them better understand the benefits of the nuclear industry and the careers it provides, so that they have factual information on the role of nuclear and radiation technologies in society today.

We also have some exciting announcements about new initiatives coming later this fall, which will support increasing the representation of women in the nuclear industry and reaching the industry’s goals of achieving gender parity. Stay tuned for more announcements coming from WiN Canada!

How do you believe embracing diversity can lead to innovation and improved outcomes for the industry?

One of our greatest challenges in the industry today is the very lean representation of women in the employee population. Women represent only about 22 per cent of the workforce in the nuclear industry. The fact of the matter is diversity brings improved operational and financial performance, greater innovation, better group performance, and an enhanced reputation for the company.

At WiN Canada, we’re committed to highlighting and supporting women in the industry, providing leadership development programs and initiatives, and being the voice for our members with industry leaders. This includes supporting our members in their pursuit of professional development and helping the organizations within our membership achieve gender balance.

What message would you like to share with the public, and especially with women, regarding the positive impact and significance of nuclear within our society?

As women working in the nuclear industry, we value nuclear energy’s role in a net-zero carbon future. The role of nuclear energy in Canada is critical to our success in reaching our net-zero carbon goals by 2050. The climate change crisis is real, and it’s the single greatest threat the world faces today. Canada’s nuclear industry makes an important contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and its carbon-free power delivers safe, reliable, and low-cost electricity that’s required in today’s advanced economy. There’s no path to a clean energy future without nuclear energy playing a vital role in the energy transition. We owe it to our children and future generations to protect them from the risks of climate change, so that they can experience a healthy and clean environment in the future. Nuclear energy is safe, reliable, and carbon-free, and will support a bright future ahead.

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