Campus and Community

“We need to encourage girls to pursue STEM”

These are the words by William D. Magwood, the Director-General of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, who visited Técnico and talked with 60 Engineering Physics students.

“We have a serious problem of gender gap in STEM. There are not enough women working in these areas”, said William D. Magwood, the Director-General of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), who visited Portugal for the first time this Tuesday, October 8th.

The lack of women in STEM “is a central issue” that leads us to discuss “ways to solve this problem,” added the NEA Director-General. An annual meeting will be held soon to discuss “what can be done to encourage more women to pursue careers in science and technology”. “We must stop complaining about this situation and do something”, said William D. Magwood.

This gender gap raises questions that can be very different according to the countries involved. For example, Women in Russia are entering STEM but two years after they start working “they disappear, which means that there are no women holding leadership positions in these areas”, says the NEA Director General. “I would like to come back in ten years and have half of my audience represented by women!”, he added.

The NEA Director General has an unusual journey. The Carnegie Mellon alumnus in Physics also has a Master’s in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. William D. Magwood decided to study physics because he wanted “to understand how galaxies were formed”. After finishing his course he began to get involved in nuclear energy. He left research to devote himself to politics “because we make things happen”.

William D. Magwood served seven years as the Director of Nuclear Energy with the U.S. Department of Energy. He then had the opportunity to go to Paris where he holds the position of Director-General of the Nuclear Energy Agency for five years.

The big challenge of nuclear power “is the cost, because building a new nuclear power plant has become very expensive. One of the novelties is the use of new technologies that allow the construction of small plants with a lot of smaller power reactors”, he stressed.

But some countries are looking to launch new power plants, such as the US, China, France the UK, Finland, Russia, South Korea and South America. “China is building 25 nuclear power plants”, added William D. Magwood.