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ONR reports positive progress made on reducing gender pay gap

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has today released its annual Gender Pay report which shows good progress in achieving one of its key aims of shaping a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Results have revealed a small but positive decrease in the gender pay gap, dropping from 27.6% to 25.3% during the last 12 months.

Since ONR first reported on the subject in 2017, the gender pay gap has fallen by 7.64%.

Notable steps forward in the report include the make-up of our 11-strong Board, which now features five women, and there are currently 22% of women in senior leadership roles, up from 6% in 2016.

ONR has looked to engage fully with other organisations in the sector – including the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group and Women in Nuclear - to bring about positive change within the gender pay gap.

As a regulator, ONR is committed to supporting the Nuclear Sector Deal, which pledges to meet the government’s target of 40% of nuclear industry employees to be female by 2030.

Currently, 34% of our workforce is female, meaning ONR stands just 6% away from its target, with nine years still before the agreed deadline.

To work to address this, our recruitment campaigns during the last year have featured female role models within ONR, including those in senior leadership roles.

This has helped to bring a marked increase of female applicants to ONR of 19%, for 2020/21, more than doubling within the last four years, and up from just under 8% in 2016/17.

The nuclear graduates training programme continues to show impressive results since it started in 2014, and so far, 36% of the ONR sponsored participants have been women.

Within that, 12 women have subsequently joined ONR as technical specialists on permanent appointments through this route.

ONR is also pleased to be promoting greater gender equality in conjunction with the BBC’s 50:50 campaign, by aiming to have 50% female representation across all our corporate media content and publications.

Although there is an assurance within the organisation for ongoing work to further reduce the gender pay gap, the current position is not unexpected, given ONR’s workforce profile and that of the industry from which we draw and pay premiums required to attract and retain niche staff.

Historically, the nuclear sector has struggled to recruit as many women as men into our technical roles, which attract a higher premium rate of pay, with the proportion of men employed in higher grades at ONR significantly greater at 75%, within the senior bands 1-3.

Female colleagues are more commonly employed in largely support and administrative roles within the corporate and operational functions.

This is because ONR has recruited technical specialists from a nuclear industry where men predominated in the STEM subjects, science, technology, engineering and maths.

To try and alleviate this traditional trend, ONR has extended its outreach and targeted its activity to ensure it promotes adequate opportunities for female students to explore maths and science throughout primary and secondary school and encourage them to pursue career paths in STEM subjects.

Dave Caton, Human Resources Director for ONR, said: "We know that we continue to have a gender pay gap and that there remains more to be done to improve this.

"As we take steps to establish a truly inclusive culture, we are heading in the right direction with continued focus on improving our diversity and inclusivity, and we must ensure that how we recognise and reward the contribution of all is an important element of that.

"We remain fully committed, at all levels of ONR, to building a workforce that is reflective of the society we operate in and to continue to act and report on our progress.

"ONR is continually working to promote and put in place an ever-increasing culture which supports women and their progression to greater levels of representation at more senior levels and create an environment that empowers and supports women over the long-term.

"This calls for cultural change, across our organisation and the nuclear industry more widely."

ONR has developed a STEM strategy, working with the Nuclear Energy Agency, titled 'Mentoring a Future Generation of Female Leaders in Science and Engineering' which will aim to inspire and support young women and girls to become the next generation of nuclear engineers, scientists and specialists and positively improve the gender balance.

Today's annual report also backed up the finding that ONR's current gender pay gap does not reflect an equal pay issue and is not related to paying men and women differently.

Research into barriers to women’s progression in the workplace has shown that their caring and children responsibilities can sometimes conflict with expectations of constant work availability and excess workloads.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further allowed ONR the opportunity to consider new ways of working and offer greater flexibility in terms of where and when people work, which will hopefully be of benefit to women when looking for jobs and when promoting ONR as an attractive employer of choice.

Read the full ONR Gender Pay Report 2021