Portraits of women (6/8) : Mary Alice Hayward
Mary Alice Hayward is the Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Management at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Prior to joining the IAEA in January 2017, Ms Hayward held a number of high level positions in the private sector and US Government, most recently as Vice President for Strategy, Government Affairs and Advocacy for the former AREVA Inc., a subsidiary of AREVA SA (now Orano & Framatome).
1. What are the specificities of your career as a woman at the United Nations? What particular difficulties have you encountered as a woman?
At the IAEA I have had the opportunity to work with many qualified women and men. I often find that women bring a unique perspective to solving problems. I don’t feel that as a woman in the Agency I have encountered difficulties; but rather when anything did not feel right I have embraced it as a challenge and stood up for myself, daring myself and others to make it right. My experience at the IAEA has been positive. Having said that, I know that my experience is not universal and as such, I feel very strongly that as a senior manager I have a responsibility to lead by example to ensure that everyone is treated equally, with respect, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religious views and such.
2. How can we promote women’s access to positions of responsibility? What have you carried out to achieve this within your organization?
It’s important to achieve gender balance in all parts of our organization, including the most senior levels. Promoting gender balance and diversity is the right thing to do, and the data shows that more diverse organizations perform better, financially and organizationally.
We want to make sure that the IAEA is an employer of choice for women. That’s why we have stepped up recruitment efforts that target specific groups – including women in STEM and other fields. Through targeted outreach, career fairs, webinars, and other tools, we’re able to reach a broader pool of qualified women. We also work closely with Member States to inform them of vacancies and ask them to encourage qualified female candidates to apply. Our ultimate recruitment goal is to hire the best qualified people.
We’ve seen a lot of progress in recent years. Women now represent over 30% of the Agency’s staff in the Professional and higher categories – this is the highest level in the IAEA’s history. The change is also happening at the most senior levels, and as of January, one third of the Deputy Directors General at the IAEA are women. All of this represents important progress, but we recognize there is still more to be done.
3. What are the issues involved in combining personal and professional life in your organization? How can a better balance be encouraged on this point?
The IAEA has many policies in place to help promote work-life balance among all our staff – both men and women. We have a generous leave policy, and in January of this year we introduced more flexible working hours.
We recognize that there are challenges in certain areas of our work – for example, Safeguards inspectors spend a lot of time in the field, which can be difficult to balance with personal obligations. Our goal is to provide our staff with the balance and support they need to do their jobs without having to sacrifice home life.
I think progress is happening as we speak. We are seeing more efforts to encourage girls and young women to pursue education and careers in STEM fields. The IAEA works with secondary school teachers in the Asia Pacific region to improve nuclear science education, including for girls. And here in Vienna, we host an annual Daughter’s Day event to introduce daughters of Agency staff to the scientific and technical work we do at the Agency.
We also work hard to attract young staff to the Agency, through internships and our Junior Professional Officer program. These initiatives allow us to tap into the fresh perspectives of the nuclear field’s youngest, brightest minds – many of whom are female – and help build the pipeline of future leaders in the field. In turn, we strive to provide these young women and men with meaningful work experience that will help them in their career.
My hope is that as these young women move through their careers, they are able to reach senior levels in technical fields that have been harder to attain for previous generations, and that gender is no longer a factor when it comes to the opportunities that the next generation has.
Leadership and management support and commitment is essential to helping women achieve their potential in international organizations, and I take my role as the Head of the IAEA’s Department of Management very seriously in that regard. That said, to truly embed the necessary changes at an organizational level, I think it’s just as important that each person, regardless of rank, take accountability for promoting gender equality in his or her daily life. This means setting clear goals, acknowledging honestly where each of us might have biases that need to be addressed, and setting out a plan to improve. By giving everyone within the organization ownership and accountability for this issue, we can continue to improve and learn lessons from each other about what works.
6. The United Nations has launched the "gender champions" initiative, whose representatives have committed not to participate in exclusively male panels. Have you ever refused to attend a panel composed exclusively of men, or been the only woman on a panel?
The IAEA Director General and I both became International Gender Champions in 2017 because we know how important it is to set the tone from the top when demonstrating our commitment to gender equality. As part of this effort, the Agency holds awareness-raising events on gender issues, with panels that include representatives from Member State governments, the Secretariat, and other organizations in the field.
I organize a yearly event on the margins of the IAEA General Conference, as well as an annual event to mark International Women’s Day. Whenever possible, we have included men on the panels of these events because we feel that gender equality is not just a “women’s issue” – it’s an “everyone” issue. Male panelists bring a unique perspective to the discussion and help drive engagement from a broader audience.
In the same way, it’s hard to have a meaningful panel discussion on an all-male panel. Just as they do in meetings and other settings, women and people from diverse backgrounds can bring new ideas to enrich the discussion. I have enjoyed the diverse panels I have participated in, particularly the unique personal stories that diverse panelists bring. These stories teach us about the human condition and experience, particularly in the nuclear field, to which I have had the privilege to devote my professional career.