Kirill Komarov, First Deputy Director General of Rosatom State Corporation and Director of Development and International Business Unit, talks about why women should be purposefully drawn into the nuclear industry.
- There is an opinion that the nuclear power industry is a strictly male industry. Do you agree with this? Can any industry be considered ‘male’ or ’female’ at all? Do you think there is a difference in the way men and women show leadership qualities?
- There are no male or female industries today. Every day in their work people have to demonstrate that they are capable of achieving the right goals, and gender has nothing to do with it. I believe people should be selected first and foremost on the basis of their professional qualities and their suitability for the position that they are hired for. All other criteria, including age, gender or nationality, should not be the determining factor, much less the deal-breaker.
A system as complex as Rosatom needs as much diversity as possible in the broad sense of the word. This is not just about gender, but also age, culture, experience, and other characteristics. ROSATOM solves the most complex problems, many of which may not have an unambiguous answer.
By ensuring diversity among employees, we will be able to assess our business processes and products from different perspectives, apply out-of-the-box approaches, and achieve better results.
As for male or female leadership, in my opinion, women are generally more thorough. They see more details, assess risks better than men and know how to manage them. They have a different form of perception of the world and it is very important, also for the balance in the management system. A female manager knows how to adjust the team like no one else, to make the employees understand that they are not thrown to the mercy of fate, but on the contrary, everyone has value and everyone is taken care of.
It is true that there are still few women in the management of the State Corporation, but we too have stories that we are proud of.
For example, our largest NPP construction site is managed by a woman, Anastasia Zoteeva. We should also mention Lyudmila Zalimskaya, who used to manage TENEX and today is a special representative of the General Director of the State Corporation for international projects.
She is one of the most respected people in the global nuclear community, known and valued as a reliable partner and strong leader. At the same time, at the right time she can show softness, find a compromise, and has an excellent sense of the person she is talking to, which is very important.
There are also great examples of women's leadership in international organizations. However, when I see how some international companies select their managers, I do not like this approach. There is such a set of criteria there that professionalism is not necessarily at the top of the list. What I see there is nothing short of gender quotas.
Nevertheless, when we were looking for a successor to Agneta Rising as head of the World Nuclear Association, I myself suggested that we focus on female candidates.
I think the global nuclear industry should have a woman's face. We still have problems with confidence in the nuclear power industry. A woman at the helm of such a structure would inspire much more trust than a man.
I can say that there are many outstanding and competent women in the nuclear power industry.
The current head of the Association, Sama Bilbao y Leon, is doing a great job. Largely thanks to her, together we continue to solve issues of peaceful nuclear power and access to the top achievements of technological progress, the possibility for all people to have electricity, heating, clean water, good education, quality health services, decent jobs, and a comfortable life. It seems logical to me that a woman is in charge of all this.
- In an international study of gender balance in the nuclear industry by the Nuclear Energy Agency's International Working Group (NEA), we saw a wage gap between women and men in all of the countries that participated in the study. It turns out that it arises in particular because, when negotiating wages, women's requests are, on average, lower than men's. The study also mentions other barriers that women face in their careers, such as the difficulty of combining work and family and so on. Do employers need to do something about these barriers? What do you think?
- As a corporation, we should form a certain platform and pursue a policy in accordance with it; not to introduce artificial quotas, but to stimulate interest towards working in the nuclear industry. A simple example is girls in physics classes. Why not come to them and give them a clear message: "Girls, choose a job with us. We have interesting tasks, we want all employees to have equal opportunities, you can fulfill yourselves"? They need real examples of how they can grow to senior executive level.
Compensation is a delicate matter. It is always a compromise between the employee and the employer. You can't have someone else stand up for one's rights and interests; people can only do it themselves. If we had a flat pay scale, we would level it out in no time. Everyone would get the same salary, no matter if it was a man or a woman, a novice or an experienced professional. All employees in similar positions would have the same salary.
But we have consciously moved away from this, because we value each person and try to create working conditions for them - including compensation - that would really appeal to them. So it's always a double-edged sword: on the one hand, salaries cannot be unified, and on the other hand, women should stand up for their rights more firmly.
As for the difficulty of combining a professional career with, for example, motherhood, I think this is a profound stereotype. In today's world, the opportunities for a working woman to have both children and a career are very wide. We as a corporation need to create the right environment for that. If we have fewer women than we would like, we need to figure out what needs to be done to make Rosatom an attractive employer just for women, to combine different female roles in a comfortable way. We must create conditions for women to come to us and have the opportunity to fulfill themselves here.
- The topic of gender balance seems to be so strange to Russia that, for example, when we participate in international events, we choose words to describe our attitude to this agenda. Most often we use the term "diversity of opportunities", while the world usually talks about equality of opportunities, inclusion, equal access, etc. In your opinion, what should diversity of opportunities in a professional environment look like?
- I must say that the Soviet Union had a much better gender balance than the rest of the supposedly civilized world. We had many more working women, more women with higher education in leadership positions. I read a study saying that feminists the world over admired the position of Soviet women and regarded it as exemplary.
Today I would rather talk about the overall internal balance of the company. As I said, when people think alike, are educated alike, and have the same life experiences, there is a high risk that they will make the same mistakes. To prevent this from happening, you have to have different points of view, even in risk management. That's where diversity should come in.
- In a study on gender balance in the nuclear industry, among the barriers women cited were cultural features related to aversion to the role of women, female leadership, and so on.
Obviously, the culture needs to be more tolerant, more accommodating. Do you feel we need to do something about that?
- I do not always like what is happening in our society and in large international corporations, where there is already a kind of "backwards segregation". For example, the most qualified candidate may be a man, but because of mandatory quotas, a woman will be appointed to the position. This is not a good way to do it either.
This is where we should focus our main efforts. For me, it is important to have equality of people and to be attentive to their specificities. It's not an easy task, but looking for easy solutions here will only lead to more problems.
Rosatom is a huge state corporation, where anyone, regardless of their gender, age, cultural or other affiliations, can find a way to realize their potential.
However, despite the fact that we are trying to involve every employee in the life of the company, taking into account their wishes and needs, there are still a number of issues that require close attention at all levels, including that of managers. By implementing an equal opportunity policy, we will be able to significantly increase the efficiency of decision-making, transfer knowledge and experience between employees, and thus make a significant contribution to the development of the corporate culture.
is necessary to seek harmony so that, on the one hand, it is possible to treat everyone equally and, on the other hand, to find opportunities to be attentive to each person, taking into account all their peculiarities, including gender.