Advancing gender parity in STEM: CTBTO celebrates women and girls in science

On 11 February, international organizations, including the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna, mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

CTBTO’s Executive Secretary, Robert Floyd, an International Gender Champion, views the day as an opportunity to reiterate his commitment to gender inclusion in advancing the work of CTBTO, stating, “On this day, and every day, I reaffirm my dedication to having talented women from around the world join us in advancing our common mission: putting an end to nuclear testing for a safer world.”

Despite the progress made in recent years, women and girls continue to encounter significant obstacles to their participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. UNESCO reports that women make up only 33.3 percent of researchers globally.

The CTBTO is committed to increasing women’s representation and participation within the Organization, particularly in its technical Divisions.

CTBTO Executive Secretary Robert Floyd with mentors and mentees of first cohort of Mentoring Programme, 2022

CTBTO’s female staff at Vienna International Centre (VIC)

Currently, women make up 39 percent of Professional (P) Staff positions and 56 percent of General (G) Service Staff positions, accounting for 45 percent of CTBTO’s personnel overall. Additionally, women account for 45 percent of all P-5 posts and 57 percent of P-2 posts, and gender parity has been achieved at the Director level, with an equal number of male and female Directors.

In November 2023, the Organization introduced the CTBTO Jobs Bulletin, enabling States Signatories to share employment listings with qualified candidates and promote increased applications from women candidates.

The CTBTO also strives to promote a cultural shift in the workplace by requiring all staff members to complete training on gender equality, unconscious bias, and preventing sexual harassment.

Beyond these efforts, the Organization has engaged in multiple programmes to advance the careers of early-career women in STEM and provide insights to girls interested in these disciplines.

One such initiative is the CTBTO Mentoring Programme. Launched in 2022, the programme has supported 25 early-career women from all around the world, prioritising candidates from underrepresented geographical regions. This initiative provides specialised technical training to participants through one-on-one mentoring with CTBTO staff and capacity building workshops to develop their skills, enhance their knowledge base and cultivate their professional network, amongst other trainings. Last year, the Organization received over 130 applications for the programme and selected 13 women from Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and South Asia, North America and Western Europe, South-East Asia, Pacific, and Far East.

Océane Van Geluwe, a former mentee and nuclear project management assistant from France, highlighted the guidance and support extended by her mentor, which she said fostered a “supportive environment for both skill development and confidence building.”

According to the CTBTO’s Gender Focal Point, Deniz Iskendarova, “This has been an impactful initiative. One way to measure its effectiveness is through news of mentees securing employment and receiving external recognition, including a mentee hired as an expert in the Multilateral Diplomacy Programme at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

National Data Centre (NDC) capacity building session held in Vienna, Austria

Participants during On-site Inspection (OSI) Directed Exercise

Another initiative is the annual Vienna Daughters’ Day, Wiener Töchtertag in German, a city-wide event in partnership with the City of Vienna. This event introduces girls, aged 11 to 16, to various career opportunities. Each year CTBTO, along with other Vienna-based international organizations, offers sessions where staff provide insights into the work of the Organization’s technical Divisions; the International Monitoring System (IMS), the International Data Centre (IDC) and On-site Inspection (OSI).

The IDC for its part, is actively boosting women's involvement in capacity building and training activities by mainstreaming gender inclusion into its participant selection process. As a result, in Eastern Europe the proportion of female participants increased from 40 percent in 2022 to 54.55 percent in 2023. Similarly, in the South-East Asia, Pacific, and Far East region, the percentage of female participants nearly tripled from 15.38 percent in 2022 to 41.38 percent in 2023.

Capacity building programmes aim to equip nationals of States Signatories with knowledge and skills in verification-related disciplines, including the use of IMS data and IDC products, as well as the establishment and operation of National Data Centres (NDC).

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science provides an opportunity to recognise CTBTO's strides towards achieving gender parity and encourages renewed focus on the work that lies ahead. The Organization's commitment to diversity and inclusion will continue through promoting increased participation of women in its capacity building trainings as well as through initiatives like the Mentoring Programme and Daughters' Day, supporting skills development for the next generation of talent, and attracting diverse applicants across gender to actively increase women’s participation in advancing the mission to ban nuclear testing.

International Data Centre (IDC) analysts at work at Operations Centre in Vienna

Xyoli Perez Campos (right), IMS Director with former mentee Alinne Olvera Martínez (left) at CTBTO Science and Technology Conference 2023

CTBTO Gender Focal Point, Deniz Iskendarova speaking with mentors during preparatory session of Mentoring Programme

Yassine Chaari, Capacity Building and Training Officer, explaining CTBTO’s verification regime to participants on Daughters’ Day 2023

Participant dusting for fingerprints in workshop during Daughters’ Day 2023