Atomic Pulse

The Importance of Creating Gender-Equitable Space in the Field of Nuclear Policy

Sylvia Mishra

Herbert Scoville Jr. Fellow

This post was
written by Sylvia Mishra, a Herbert
Scoville Jr. Fellow working with NTI’s Global Nuclear Policy Program.
Previously, Mishra was a visiting fellow at the James
Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), in Monterey, Calif. She holds
a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Hindu College, University
of Delhi, a Master of Science in International Relations from the London School of
Economics and Political Science, and a Master of Arts in Nonproliferation and
Terrorism Studies from Middlebury Institute of International Studies.


the last two decades, international organizations increasingly have focused on
the importance of the full, participation of women in discussions and work
around nuclear policy, nonproliferation, disarmament, and related issues. It is
now widely accepted that gender parity is critical to maintaining international
peace and security—but that acceptance doesn’t always translate into practice.

integration of women was enhanced in 2001 when the United Nations Office for
Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) began
mainstreaming gender perspective into its work through
a set of briefing notes on Gender Perspectives on Disarmament. Nine years
later, in 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted

on ‘Women, disarmament proliferation and arms control’ to address the impact of
disarmament and arms control on human rights from a gender perspective.
Subsequent resolutions –
67/48 (2012), 68/33 (2013), and 69/61 (2014) – have
further called for strengthened participation of women and the promotion of equal
opportunities for the representation of women in all decision-making processes
related to non-proliferation and disarmament.

January 2018, the UN achieved a major milestone when it became clear that
23 out of the 44 most senior
, excluding the UN Secretary General, were held by women.
This gender parity in the top echelons of the United Nations serves as a
significant marker for organizations working to global peace and stability.

despite the importance that is attached to women’s equal participation in
policymaking on WMD, women’s voices globally remain under-represented in a
number of key arenas. For instance, at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
(NPT) Review Conference
in 2015, 901 of the 1226
registered diplomats were men (73.5%) and 325 were women (26.5%). Imbalances in
gender representation also were visible
at the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty negotiations in 2017. Although the negotiations
were led by Costa Rican Ambassador Elaine Whyte Gomez, only 31% of registered
delegates were women and 29% of women delivered country statements.

also is important to emphasize that increasing the number of women’s voices on
nuclear weapons issues isn’t the only imperative. It also is important to strengthen those voices. As Ambassador
Susan Burk recently noted, “One of the biggest challenge women face working on
hard security issues has been building a reputation as a serious and credible expert
and strategic thinker on issues that historically have been the purview of

of the first steps toward creating gender-equitable space in the field is to
promote women into leadership positions. At the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI),
women hold key decision-making positions and lead by example. Among them: Amb.
Laura Holgate, vice president
of NTI’s Materials Risk Management program, and
Corey Hinderstein, vice president
of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Strategies. Both have held key positions at the
government working on nuclear security and nonproliferation issues, and both have
also held leadership roles in organizations like Women in International
Security (WIIS).

Samantha Pitts-Kiefer and Lynn Rusten work on a variety
of national and global security issues, including US-Russia nuclear risk
reduction and the evolving challenges of cyber security as they relate to
nuclear weapons. Dr.
Elizabeth Cameron heads up NTI’s
expanding biosecurity team, and
Joan Rohlfing and Deborah Rosenblum lead the staff as
president and executive vice president respectively.

is also essential that the next generation is equipped to understand complex
nuclear issues. NTI takes mentoring and educating the next generation
seriously. Amid challenges to the NPT regime, Rohlfing emphasizes the
importance of nonproliferation and disarmament education. At a recent
panel discussion on the Nonproliferation Treaty at Fifty, hosted
by the Stimson Center, she highlighted
urgent need to inform the public on the risks and effects of nuclear war and
the dangers of nuclear weapons use. Rofhling also is promoter of diversity and
empowering young women professionals to join the field of nonproliferation and
disarmament. At a CRDF Global
event last summer, she referred to a
method used by women at the White House to amplify each other’s voices in
meetings when a female colleague’s point of view was not receiving deserved

someone who has worked in India and the United States, I have come to realize
that there are entrenched gender biases in almost all societies. However, I
believe there is a growing recognition that in 2018, there is no place for
orthodox views on ‘masculinity and strength’ in arms control. As Ploughshares
Fund President Joseph Cirincione wrote in an article titled,
Gender Shunning
, gender discrimination is a pervasive issue that cannot be
solved with good intentions alone. It will take all of us to shun this problem.



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