From Carnegie: “Balancing for Better in Nuclear Security”

Carnegie Corporation’s recent article by Noelle Pourrat and Carl Robichaud examines issues of gender equality in nuclear security, and cites the WIIS’ 2018 think tank scorecard report. The article highlights the value of diversity while noting the relative lag in the nuclear security field. It examines the gender breakdown of Carnegie Corporation nuclear security grantees. Particularly of note is the finding that women more often occupy supporting roles relative to men, while the opposite is true for leadership roles. Finally, the article reports challenges and best practices shared by grantees.

Carnegie Corporation is providing support for WIIS’ 2019 Next Generation Gender, Peace and Security Symposium, which this year will also focus on nuclear security issues. The symposium represents efforts to not only engage in discourse about gender equality in the international security field, but, as the report suggests, “develop a healthy pipeline of talent.”  

Read an excerpt of the report here, or the full article on the Carnegie Corporation website.


For decades, the fields of nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, deterrence, and diplomacy have been dominated by (mostly white) men. A 2018 report by Women in International Security (WIIS) found that, at 22 security-focused think tanks in Washington, D.C., women made up only 27 percent of experts. Moreover, U.N. documents show that women comprised only 31 percent of the delegates negotiating the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. And there are other indicators of gender inequity in the field.

Based on a brief survey of sixty nuclear grantees, we learned that women make up about 51 percent of total project staff, and 42 percent of project leadership.

Women make up 51% of team members in nuclear security projects supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Women represent 42% of project leaders in nuclear grants funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

While we are encouraged that relatively high numbers of women are engaged in the projects the Corporation supports, these numbers conceal significant variation across organizations and sectors. By digging deeper, we sought to draw out lessons to continue to close these gaps.

The overwhelming majority (82 percent) of respondents described specific efforts to attain or maintain parity of women in staff numbers, project cohorts, and public presentations. Some use informal “conscious efforts” while others have instituted specific policies. A few organizations reported having an internal gender awareness plan or committee established to address issues of gender equality. Sixteen pointed to reforms in human resources involving recruitment practices, family leave, and bias training. Other grantees, including CRDF Global and Chatham House, are developing best practices toolkits to share with the field.


Perhaps most important in securing better gender balance within the nuclear space is providing more women with leadership opportunities. Over a third of our grantees testified to how gender-balanced leadership, committees, and decision-making bodies organically led to more equitable environments. Yet the WIIS report confirms a deficit of women at the top, with women heading only 32 percent of the think tanks and 22 percent of the boards in their survey.

Correcting hierarchical imbalance depends on establishing and cultivating a healthy pipeline of talent. Thirteen grantees talked about providing early career fellowships, targeted workshops, media training, and ongoing professional development opportunities to support women in their careers. Long-term retention remains a challenge. “Women either have to live with the frustrations, which can impact the quality of their work, or they can leave,” says Alex Bell of the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. “A quick glance around at the senior leadership inside and outside the government will demonstrate how leaky the nuclear policy pipeline still is for women.”

[Full article]