July 31, 2018
I’m honored to attend the U.S. Women in Nuclear National Conference in Huntsville, Alabama this week. Women in Nuclear (WIN) draws a varied cross-section of men and women who work in the nuclear energy field, including power plant operators, fieldwork supervisors, analysts, accountants, information technology experts, carpenters and on. As I think about the diverse group that has come together to share their knowledge and experiences, I see aspects of TerraPower’s mission.
Society makes great strides forward with science and technology. And that progress isn’t limited to the creative comforts electricity provides. Careers in science, education, technology and math (STEM) offer profoundly more.
In the early 1900s, just a third of adults worldwide received a basic education. Literacy was limited to about 20 percent of the population. At the time of rural electrification in the U.S., housewives with electric appliances were spending as much time on household duties as those without appliances. Electricity made tasks easier, but new technologies actually increased the number and frequency of domestic tasks expected. Electricity also extended the day and allowed people greater access to information and education, particularly with the introduction of radio and TV. The social impact of greater information access has transformed gender relations from what they were a century ago.
We take the history of electrification for granted in the U.S., but fast forward to today and the impacts are evident. A recent study in Bangladesh revealed that women watched about 65 minutes of TV each day in electrified households versus only 13-18 minutes in non-electrified households. Subsequently, the study showed that gains in knowledge resulting from increased TV viewing increased women’s empowerment to make decisions to spend their own earnings.
Many of us are fortunate to have regular electricity, heat and air conditioning, and numerous other resources that make life a little easier. However, we must recognize that not everyone is there yet, and progress still needs to be made. The International Energy Agency estimates that approximately 1.1 billion people around the world still do not have access to electricity. There are still more than 3 billion women, men and children around the world living on less than $2.50 per day. Better access to energy will enable them to educate themselves, get jobs and take care of their families.
WIN offers a great venue to reflect on our responsibility as leaders in the energy industry to develop and operate affordable and efficient technology that can provide increased opportunities for education and livelihood worldwide. At TerraPower, our vision is to do just that through advanced nuclear technology. We recognize the opportunity to provide resources and help empower women both inside and outside of the company to be leaders and push forward the nuclear industry.