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Nuclear Nonproliferation: Disarming Gender Disparities

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Sarah Bidgood, director of Eurasia nonproliferation program at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and Jooeun Kim, Stanton nuclear security fellow at CFR, discuss nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, and gender disparities in arms control policymaking.

Learn more about CFR’s resources for the classroom at CFR Academic.


Sarah Bidgood

Director, Eurasia Nonproliferation Program, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Jooeun Kim

Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations


Irina A. Faskianos

Vice President, National Program and Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

FASKIANOS: Good afternoon from New York and welcome to the CFR Academic Conference Call Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Today’s call is on the record and the audio and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org/Academic. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy.

We’re delighted to have Sarah Bidgood and Jooeun Kim with us today to talk about gender disparities in arms control policymaking and nuclear nonproliferation. Ms. Bidgood is director of the Eurasia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, where she also leads the Young Women in Nonproliferation Initiative. Her research focuses on U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Russia nonproliferation cooperation, as well as the international nonproliferation regime more broadly. Ms. Bidgood is co-editor of the book, Once and Future Partners: The United States, Russia, and Nuclear Nonproliferation that was published in 2018.

Dr. Kim is Stanton nuclear security fellow at CFR, where she specializes in alliance politics, nuclear nonproliferation, and East Asian security issues. Her research focuses on relations between alliance credibility and an ally’s decision to develop nuclear weapons. Dr. Kim has served as a fellow at Georgetown University’s Asian Studies Program, at George Washington University’s Institute for Security and Conflict Studies, and at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. She was also previously a managing editor of International Studies Quarterly.

So, Sarah and Jooeun, thank you very much both for being with us today. So today’s conference discussion will be a little bit different. We’re going to actually focus on gender disparity in this field, and then both Sarah and Jooeun can talk more broadly about nuclear nonproliferation in different parts of the world. So, Sarah, why don’t we begin with you and then we’ll go to Jooeun?

BIDGOOD: Super. Thank you so much, Irina. And thank you so much to the Council on Foreign Relations for organizing this discussion. I have to say, I’ve been looking forward to it for months. And I’m really glad that we’re still able to come together for this conversation at a time when it feels like it’s a little bit hard to connect with one another for many reasons. So as Irina indicated, I’m going to be talking about the intersection between gender, gender diversity, and outcomes in nonproliferation, arms control, and disarmament today. As Irina said, my primary sort of area of academic research deals with U.S.-Russian relations in the context of nuclear policy, but as I am going to describe to you here in my introductory remarks, diversity—including gender diversity—is hugely important to my ability to do my best work. So that’s part of the reason why I’ve become so interested in this topic over the last several years.

So I’d like to begin by just kind of describing the landscape today, so you can get a sense for the scope of the gender imbalance in our field. For anybody who works in the security space, I think it’s no secret that there are many fewer women who are working in this domain than men. In my own experience, you know, I’m frequently the only women or one of just a few women on a panel or in any given room when I go to an event or conference. But thanks to some great research that’s been conducted in the last several years, we now have the data to really quantify and understand the extent of this imbalance, which I think is an important first step to addressing it.

So, these data tell us, for example, that, you know, only about 33 percent of the people who work in the national nuclear security administration are women. Only 27 percent or so of experts on staff at leading security-focused think tanks in D.C. are women. Only about 31 percent of registered delegates at the negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons were women. Just 26 ½ percent of the delegates at the 2015 NPT Revcon were women. So we can really get a sense for the fact that, you know, on average, at any one of these organizations, somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of the experts or practitioners are women. And that’s pretty consistent globally. I found these statistics to be really sort of shocking when we consider the fact that around 45 percent of the global workforce are women. So these are just some data points to help us kind of understand the scope of the problem and to help us set some appropriate targets.

So you know, why does this matter? I think the first reason that probably comes to many people’s minds is fairness. You know, nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction more broadly, don’t discriminate. All of us would be affected by their use. And in fact, some recent studies have shown that here would actually be a disproportionately greater differentiated impact on women than men that would result from any use of nuclear weapons, for instance. The bottom line, though, is that no one’s excluded from experiencing the impacts of these weapons and their use. And therefore, no one group of people should have exclusive say over the policies that govern their use.

But there’s also the question of outcome. There’s great new research from the private sector that shows quantitatively what I think many of us have observed anecdotally for a long time, which is that diverse groups, including gender diverse groups, generate better outcomes than homogenous groups. In private companies, this translates to higher revenues. So companies that have more gender diverse board tend to make money. And in the hard sciences, diverse author groups are often able to generate research that is more highly cited and has a higher impact factor than author groups that are made up of homogeneous scholars.

So when it comes to preventing the spread and the use of weapons of mass destruction, where we really can’t afford anything but the best possible outcome, we’re limiting our own ability to our jobs well by excluding women from the conversation. So we need diversity, including gender diversity, if we’re going to be effective. And for us, in our line of work, you know, getting this right is literally a matter of life and death.

So what can we do about this problem? First, it’s clear to me that this is going to take concerted efforts and concrete steps to be able to kind of overturn the status quo. There are a lot of stereotypes about the, you know, quote/unquote, “masculine” nature of kind hard security issues, including nonproliferation and arms control. And it’s really become self-reinforcing the longer that the gender imbalance remains unchallenged. These have kind of been allowed to calcify over decades. So we’ll need to do some deep work as an industry and as a society to move past some of these implicit biases.

Second, there are systemic challenges that make it more difficult for women to enter a field and to stay there in the long run. We have a good understanding of what some of these barriers are already. And not all of them are unique to our field. But we need more data to understand when and where there are leaks in the career pipeline, so we can figure out how to take effective action. Fortunately, there are a lot of groups who are working on this issue from a lot of different angles, including, you know, Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy, Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security, UNIDIR, Girl Security, and the Council on Foreign Relations’ own Women in Foreign Policy Program.

For my part, I’m really interested in getting more undergraduate women interested in this field. And I run a program at CNS called the Young Women in Nonproliferation Initiative, that does just this. So I found in my own research, and I’d be happy to talk more about this, that very few students have the opportunity to kind of learn about WMD issues at the undergraduate level in our country. And disproportionately fewer of these small group of students are women. So with this in mind, what I do is I work to conduct outreach events and to offer resources and mentorship that encourage women at U.S. colleges and universities to kind of pursue careers in our field and figure out ways to support them along their way.

So I’m going to wrap up, but, you know, for now my bottom line is that gender imbalance in our field is a really big challenge. But I feel fortunate to be working on this issue at a moment when there seems to be a real recognition of why it matters in our field. So I’d be curious to hear what Jooeun thinks, and what others think, and in particular to hear from students about what would be helpful. So I’ll just—I’ll leave it there, Irina. Thank you.

FASKIANOS: Thank you very much, Sarah.

Jooeun, let’s turn to you.

KIM: Well, thank you for having me, and happy to share my ideas with you all today. Just to be concise, I would like to focus on three issues that come to mind when I think about gender disparity in nuclear nonproliferation, which were already emphasized by Sarah. So the first thing that comes to mind is the different fields men and women focus on. So more men women in the field of deterrence while more women work in nonproliferation. I will unpack what that means in a moment. Then the second thing is a lack of representation in arms control negotiations and nuclear talks, and how specifically representation can result in more favorable outcomes. And third, I want to highlight some challenges for mothers in the field.

So while the number of women participating in the nuclear field has increased over the past several decades, there is still a tendency for women to participate more in the nonproliferation community while men dominate the top field of military or deterrence top field. That is to say perceptions of binary hierarchies often keep women in soft-policy shoes, such as humanitarian affairs and out of hard policy shoes, such as security, and political, and legal affairs. This point was highlighted in an amazing study done by New America titled The “Consensual Straitjacket”: Four Decades of Women in Nuclear Security, which I highly recommend.

In other qualitative studies which interview various female leaders in the field, so that it is harder to penetrate the nuclear target and nuclear deterrence top field than the nuclear nonproliferation soft field, which they describe as being more welcoming. But it is imperative to have female actors represented even in the military side of nuclear policy decision making because of the perspective women can bring into a discussion. For example, women tend to challenge conventional wisdom more than men. And having different perspectives in fights can lead to fewer miscalculations and better policy decision making.

My second point is that nuclear talks are conducted predominantly by males. There is underrepresentation of women in multilateral and bilateral diplomatic nuclear disarmament negotiations. For example, women were underrepresented in very important treaty negotiations, such as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the Strategic Arms Negotiation Treaty, or the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. At the NPT media conference, as Sarah mentioned, in 2015, about nine hundred of the twelve hundred registered diplomats were men and only 325 were women, which was just about 26 percent.

The research done by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research titled, Still Behind the Curve, shows that this trend is more prominent in the Asian-Pacific and African countries than in Western European or Latin American countries. If you do a simple global search for images of the six-party talks, which were a series of negotiations aimed at the denuclearization of North Korea about ten years ago, you will only see male negotiators from the six countries—the United States, South Korea, North Korea, Japan, China, and Russia.

However, as Sarah mentioned already, research in similar fields such as conflict resolution, and peacekeeping, as well as business, show that female participation in negotiations leads to more durable outcomes than fear of miscalculation. For example, women’s participation leads to peace agreements that are 64 percent less likely to fail, and 35 percent more likely to last at least fifteen years. So it is not just fair to women participating in important nonproliferation negotiations, but also it is critical and strategic to involve more women so that we have more effective and lasting outcomes.

My third point is related to challenges for mothers in the nuclear nonproliferation field. We are all going through rough, changing times due to the COVID-19 crisis. I, for one, am struggling to find the time to research and write from home while also working as a full-time mother to a toddler. But the challenges females, especially mothers, face did not start during this global health crisis. The research I quoted earlier also talks about how there are institutional and informal practices that sustain gendered hierarchies and divisions of labor in the nuclear nonproliferation field.

For example, some women leave early when they come out of negotiations run on exhausting daily schedules unfriendly to work-life balance. Unequal division of family tasks holds back women diplomats’ career. And because of this, recruiters may not hire women who hold more family responsibilities. Also, huge workloads conflict with unpaid caring responsibilities, the majority of which still fall on women. And from my experience, academic conference networking opportunities can happen in a bar at night, and not a small number of experts and students have to go home to their children.

I, for one, have to make decisions several times during the past few years. Especially last year, I couldn’t attend a conference I really wanted to attend because I was a nursing mother. And I’m sure this type of decision making will continue even as my toddler grows up. And time taken out of the workforce for maternity leave and childcare means that women often have a different and later-in-life career trajectory. So let me wrap up by making the point that it is important for us, women, to have good male allies in the field. Because the nuclear policy field is male dominated, it is important to have good mentors and friends who are cognizant of the challenges we face and can help us navigate the field.

I was blessed with academic advisors, who happen to be all men, and I was able to get good mentorship and guidance throughout my Ph.D. and fellowship years. The academic work and the productive fellowship I enjoyed, which led to where I am now, would not have been possible if my male mentors were not sensitive to the issues women go through. And our generation of female experts have good male allies compared to previous generations, but I think it is still important for male colleagues to be mindful of the unique challenges female experts can go through while they navigate various challenges coming from family planning and career choices.

So let me conclude by mentioning the research done by the world institute for nuclear security, which finds that the main obstacle for women entering the nuclear security profession is a lack of role models. So women respondents think that more women in leadership positions is the best method for increasing gender parity. That is to say, as important as it is to have male allies, it is even more important for women to break into the field to serve as mentors to future generations of female scholars and experts. So with that, I look forward to your questions and our discussion.

FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. That was terrific. Let’s open it up now, Brandon (sp), to questions. And we can, you know, take those on sort of the nuclear proliferation and deterrence more broadly, and on gender disparity issues, to clarify more. Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time we will open the floor for questions.

(Gives queuing instructions.)

The first question will come from St. Edwards University, Austin, Texas. Please go ahead with your question.

Q: Yeah. My question is for Sarah Bidgood. And you had mentioned early that there were some studies that said that women could possibly be more adversely affected by a nuclear, I believe you said strike. I don’t know if you were saying strike or just sort of the proliferation. But I was just wondering if you could provide some examples of how that could be so.

BIDGOOD: Sure. Thank you so much. That’s a great question. And I’m glad you brought it up.

So there are indeed some studies that suggest that there is a disproportionate impact resulting from radiation, essentially, on women that are not the same as they are on men. And part of this is simply because of the biological differences between men and women. So there are sort of ionizing impacts of radiation that create certain types of cancers. And those tend to be more prevalent among women have been exposed to them than among men. So there are actually these sort of physiological differences. And if that’s something that interests you, Jooeun and I both talked about UNIDIR, the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research. They have conducted some research on this. There is an article that came out in 2016 dealing with gender differences. And they talked in particular about this differentiated impact.

And I should mention too that this isn’t just something that we would see as the result of the use of nuclear weapons. There are also differentiated impacts—differentiated psychological impacts, differentiated physical impacts—that result from the testing and development of nuclear weapons as well, at least as is supported by this research. So I encourage you to check that out. It’s a really interesting, I think, way of approaching this issue. And I’m glad you brought it up.

Q: Thank you.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

(Gives queuing instructions.)

The next question will come from Cal State East Bay University. Please go ahead.

Q: Hi. This is for Sarah. And as an undergrad student, I do notice that there isn’t a lot of opportunities promoted in this particular sector. But what—can you expand on the program that you talked about earlier?

BIDGOOD: Yeah. I’m so glad you asked about that. Yeah, so the program that I run at CNS is called the Young Women in Nonproliferation Initiative. And it was inspired by a big research project that I conducted in 2017 and 2018, that I think was on the list of recommended sort of pre-readings for this call. So you’re welcome to check it out there. But what I found through talking with professors who do teach on this subject is that there tends to be fewer undergraduate women who are enrolled in courses where student would be exposed and introduced to nonproliferation and arms control issues. And as a result, that makes it—you know, that lessens the pool of women who would potentially consider careers in this field.

So based on sort of, I guess, my own personal experience, but also the research that I conducted, I designed a program that really has sort of three prongs. So one of them is outreach. I go to different colleges and universities in the United States. And I talk with students about what it’s like to have a career in this field, what types of research you can do, what diverse skill sets are applicable to this field, and what people can do who are interested in getting involved to kind of further their education.

The other thing that I do is that it’s a mentorship program. So among the schools that I have gone and spoken to, I arrange mentors for some of those students who are interested in being mentored and match them with experts in the field who can help them answer questions, set goals, help champion them, give them opportunities to showcase their talents. And I found that to be, you know, a really effective and rewarding way of doing this work since, as Jooeun pointed out, there’s a real importance to having mentors and sponsors in the field.

And then the third prong is more sort of a static resource that you’re welcome to check out online. I collect articles about gender issues and also articles by women experts, to sort of highlight the number of women who are working in this field and the diversity of research that they’re doing. So that’s on our CNS website. And I hope it’s a good resource for students who are trying to find some role models and looking at the ways that women are working in the field. So thank you for asking.

FASKIANOS: I’ll ask the next question. What are some ways students can become involved in grappling with international security challenges, like with nuclear nonproliferation?

BIDGOOD: Jooeun, do you want to weigh in on that? Or I’m happy to answer as well.

KIM: No, no.

BIDGOOD: OK. Sure. (Laughs.) So I think there are a couple of good ways. I mean, because of the sort of challenging—the challenges that I highlighted at the outset, which are that, you know, I recognize that there are students who don’t have the opportunity to learn about these institutions at their home institutions, I think you can do a lot to sort of educate yourself, and to try to explore some of the resources that are already publicly available for public education. So for instance, the Nuclear Threat Initiative does a lot of really great work that is aimed at an educated lay audience to help people become better versed in these subjects. And I think that those are the type of resources that students can look to, even if they don’t have opportunities to study these issues formally in the classroom.

The other thing I like to recommend is, you know, writing. So this is a great moment to do some writing, to do some researching, and to possibly pitch, you know, an op-ed or a study to either your academic, you know, publication or a publication like the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Voice of Tomorrow. So thinking about ways that you can kind of start to formulate your own thoughts and perspectives about these particular issues and then get them out the public, I think those are great ways of starting to kind of develop your own voice and perspective.

KIM: I would just like to add that there’s a great program called International School on Disarmament and Research on Conflict, called ISODARCO, which is organized by Italian Pugwash Group and held in Andalo, Italy every January. And I always like to say—(inaudible)—interested in, then I know undergrad students can enroll too. And then a lot of leading experts come and speak and educate us; and we have dinner, lunch, breakfast together with experts. So we not only gain knowledge, but we’d be part of the huge network that is really supportive. So I encourage undergrad students who are interested in this field, apply and enroll and—(inaudible)—next year so you can meet people and learn and become more interested in disarmament issues.

BIDGOOD: Irina, if I could add one more thing to that as well. There are a lot of organizations that do offer internships related to this subject. And CNS is one of them. We do have a paid summer internship. But there are, you know, many of them in D.C. and sort of across the country. So I would encourage students to explore some of those opportunities as well. Those can be great ways of, you know, really feeling out: Is this an industry that you’d like to work in? Do you enjoy doing research? Do you enjoy making policy recommendations? It’s important to the longevity of our field that people have opportunities to kind of dip their toes in at the outset. So I think those are some really valuable opportunities to look at as well.

FASKIANOS: Thank you, Sarah. And just to plug too, the Council on Foreign Relations has internships—paid internships as well. Summer/fall and winter/spring. So we have opportunities that you all should look at.

So next question.

OPERATOR: The next question will come from Wellesley College. Please go ahead with your question.

Q: Hi. I’m an undergraduate student at Wellesley College. And following up on the early question, I am interested in the field in international security, but I was wondering what either of you looked for in mentors as an undergraduate and as a graduate student. And basically, how you found your mentors.

FASKIANOS: Jooeun, do you want to take that one? I know you talked about mentors in your remarks.

KIM: Yeah, so I met great mentors after I entered my Ph.D. program for my academic advisor, Matt Koeing (sp) who directed my Ph.D. thesis. He was a terrific mentor for me. He always gave me critiques, comments, and very sensitive about the issues that women have, including family planning. So I greatly benefited from his mentorship and understanding throughout my long, arduous Ph.D. And, again, you know, he recommended me for a fellowship at Stanford, for example, and I met a great, again, male mentor, Scott Sagan. And he was an amazing mentor for me.

So it was just—I was thinking how I can answer this better when I was listening to your question, but I didn’t necessarily seek out mentors. I think I was just lucky, and I was blessed with an academic advisor who happened to be all men and very understanding about my issues. But that’s why I was emphasizing about, you know, female junior scholars like me sometimes we are very shy. It’s really hard to approach both male and female mentors who are more important and more senior. So it is very important for both male and female mentors to create an environment that is warm and motivating so that, you know, future generations of people like me, young female scholars, can stay in the field and continue what we do, which is moving sort of for world peace.

So I don’t know if Sarah has a specific way of approaching, but that was what happened. I entered the Ph.D. program. I met with scholars. Started working with them. They started recommending these various opportunities. That’s how I got my current fellowship at CFR.

BIDGOOD: Jooeun, I agree with so much of what you said. And I’ll just say, you know, I went to Wellesley. I’m a Wellesley alumna. And Tom Hodge in the Russian Department was my first mentor. He really helped me develop my kind of interest in the field and helped me develop the language skills that I use every day to conduct the type of research that I do. So obviously looking around on our own campus and seeing, you know, who are folks who can kind of help plug you in and help you develop the skills that you need to work in this field, whether or not you’re learning how to apply them directly to the field, I think is really crucial.

But you know, I’ll say as well, I don’t know anybody with whom we work—and, Jooeun, I don’t know if you’ve felt differently—but people love to hear from students. I love to hear from students. Nothing makes me happier than getting an email from somebody who’s interested in working in the field, who would like to know a little bit more about how to get started. So I think this can be intimidating but being brave and reaching out to people is a great way of finding a diverse group of mentors who can help you kind of cultivate these skills.

And then as mentors, on the mentor side, I would encourage all of my colleagues to kind of educate yourselves about best practices for mentoring students. So there’s a lot of really useful research now that talks about not just mentorship but this concept of sponsorship, where you kind of use your status in the field to lift up the next generation. To—you know, if you cannot go to a conference, invite one of your younger colleagues who’s a woman, and encourage them to have the opportunity to share their perspectives and views.

So there are concrete ways that people in the field can use to be good mentors and good strategies for that. So I think this is a learning experience for all of us as we’re starting to realize how critical mentorship is to kind of improving the gender imbalance in our field. And I think everybody might have to step a little bit outside of their comfort zone to do that, but I’m always happy to be a resource there. So please don’t hesitate to reach out.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: The next question will come from Brigham Young University, College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. Please go ahead with your question. Please make sure your phone is not on mute.

Q: Thank you. Thank you very much.

So the question I have is we’re talking about nonproliferation, disarmament, and gender disparities. And I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on if it—what would you say is—is there something unique about global gender disparity in disarmament as compared to other academic fields? Or I guess would you say that’s the case, and if so what is it?

BIDGOOD: Jooeun, do you want to weigh in on that one?

KIM: Yes. I will weigh in. So my personal experience, I think that security and nuclear policy field are more male dominated and male-friendly environment. And if I look at—maybe because I didn’t have lifetime experience, maybe I’m mischaracterizing the field, but when I look at my friends studying communications or area studies, such as Southeast Asia, I see, you know, more friendly environment for those around the female scholars. So I think traditionally because this specific topic, working with nuclear policy, was, you know, heavily decided by the Defense Department and militaries, which were predominantly male, I think that the nuclear security field until fairly recently were occupied by many of the experts.

So it was really hard for us, as female scholars or policymakers, to penetrate the already-created male-dominated field. So I think, of course, other fields have their own unique problem. And of course, they also have gender disparities. But I think because they were dominated by military and Defense Department, which are occupied by a lot of men, I think that we face more challenges than other fields.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Caller, if you would please identify your affiliation, and go ahead with your question.

Q: Hi. This is Kathy Harris (sp) from Michigan State University. I apologize. I think my hand must have accidentally pressed the star before saying my university.

So I have a question for both of you. I specifically am studying generation four nuclear reactors, specifically the possibility of molten salt reactors as a solution to climate change. So these reactors, however, have been seen as a concern to nonproliferation, as the uranium would be enriched to U-233, which is weapons grade. So Professor Julia Hathaway from George Mason University argued that climate change is gendered to be more of a feminine issue. Do you know—do either of you two have input as to whether climate change and nuclear nonproliferation are in tension with each other, especially with regards to the gendered aspects of both?

BIDGOOD: That is such a good question. And you know, I actually have not thought about it from the gendered perspective before, so I really appreciate you bringing that up. And I’m certainly going to have to reflect on that after we finish the call. But, you know, my immediate reaction would be that, you know, I do think that there’s growing recognition of kind of the intersection of climate change issues and nonproliferation and arms control issues. And to me that was codified in a really significant way in some of the literature that the United Nations secretary-general has put out recently, where there is kind of a more concrete discussion about the nexus of those issues and why, looking at nuclear energy is so crucial to addressing climate change issues.

But in terms of, you know, gender, you know, I don’t know. I think I would say I don’t personally think about the climate change issues as being sort of especially gendered one way or the other, but since that’s not my primary area of focus others might have different perspectives. But I think, you know, the International Atomic Energy Agency, as I’m sure you know, is obviously doing lots of work in the area of peaceful nuclear energy. And climate change is becoming more and more a focus of that subject. So that could—if there is, indeed, a kind of gendered dimension to climate change issues, perhaps that’s a lens through which to look at the intersection of these two subjects. But I’m really going to have to reflect on that. So thank you for bringing it up.

KIM: I would just add that I think your point is very important. And I know Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working on nuclear reactors to combat climate change. But at the same time South Korea, which really relies on nuclear reactors for energy—producing energy, is also trying to rely less on nuclear reactors because of environmental issues. So I think there are very complex concerns between combatting climate change and nuclear nonproliferation, as you mentioned.

So I think it’s very important for people and scholars like you who work on these reactors that are helping combatting climate change, but at the same time it is managed well and we also see, like, accidents or that our citizens who are approving or supporting that government policy on more nuclear reactors for climate change can support and not be afraid of the idea of inviting those reactors into their region or cities, because that’s what is happening in South Korea. Citizens are concerned in some areas for there to be more nuclear reactors or maintaining nuclear reactors. So I think, again, it’s very important for you to continue your work so that we can build reactors that is helpful for climate change and less prone to accidents.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: The next question will come from California State University East Bay. Please go ahead.

Q: Hi. This is Maria Ortuoste from Cal State East Bay.

I just wanted to ask, well, at first I wanted to mention that it’s good that you talked about the multiple roles that women play in both at home and in the workplace. But I also wanted to ask if in your research you were able to look at the issue of multiple factors of identities of women—such as race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, citizenship, even in terms of social economic class. And if you did, could you please talk a little about it? Thank you.

KIM: So I personally don’t do research on gender or race issues, but I can speak from my personal—sorry, it’s echoing. So do you think there’s a technical problem?

FASKIANOS: I think maybe we need to close the student’s line, because I think we’re getting feedback from that. We are. I’m hearing it too. OK, go ahead, Jooeun.

KIM: OK, so from my—so I didn’t highlight the race issues when I shared my remarks, but personally I face both female challenges and also—the gender challenges, but also race issue because I’m a young Asian female. And so English is, for example, my third language. It was extremely hard to—well, it’s getting better, and I’ve been doing it for many, many years. But there are sometimes I can’t speak well compared to my American male colleagues. But I don’t want to admit that issue, because the moment I talk about that issue I’m admitting my limitations, and that means that I cannot compete equally to my male colleagues. So I’m sure there are a lot of women—not white women, but women of color—facing unique challenges that are extra to the gender challenges we already are facing. So I don’t necessarily study about this topic, but from my personal experience that was a huge challenge in my career.

And also you mentioned socioeconomic problems. Pursing Ph.D. is a very long process. And the stipend students receive is not that big. And if you live in a city like D.C. or San Francisco, which are really expensive, it’s really, really hard to sustain your lifestyle or whatever lifestyle you have. So for some socioeconomically underprivileged people cannot pursue their Ph.D. programs. So we may lose a lot of talent if there’s not much funding in the universities. So you’re right, that I think women in color or socioeconomically underprivileged people would have extra challenges pursuing their passion in this field.

BIDGOOD: Yeah. I would second that. I mean, I didn’t look at that issue in particular in the research study that I was talking about previously, but clearly the intersectionality of identity is something that we have to be aware of when trying to come up with strategies to sort of up-end the status quo. So you know, understanding that the experience of an upper-middle class white woman trying to break into this field could be very different from, you know, a woman from an underprivileged community. Recognizing that and acknowledging it is I think the absolute first step to figuring out ways to address those inequities.

And there are some groups who are doing great work on the subject. One I talked about previously was Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security. They’re looking, obviously, very closely at this nexus. But, you know, I think—I’m so glad you brought this up, because we’re talking about diversity and that is absolutely a central core element of any conversation about diversity in our field or elsewhere. And so I’m really happy that you brought that up. And I think that that will be a topic that more groups are starting to look at because it’s so crucial.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Caller, if you would please identify your affiliation before taking your question. Please go ahead.

Q: Hi. I’m Sophie Vermen (sp) from Skidmore University.

And I was wondering, in terms of approaches that feminists can access to increase their role in negotiations with nuclear nonproliferation, and just debates in the field in general. Do you think that eco-feminism and claiming women’s closeness to connections with caring and motherhood can empower different groups of woman and broaden extending access into engagement? Or do you think that these can also be kind of heinously used to discredit women from equal access to citizenship and participation?

KIM: Well, the study I introduced earlier by New America, The “Consensual Straitjacket”, the interview also highlights that, you know, women are not necessarily peace loving. You know, that is, like, a total mischaracterization. And we shouldn’t be doing that. So there are people that argue that. On the other hand, there are many studies which emphasize that women are—tend to think about ethical implications of our nuclear policies. So I think both arguments are right. I think we shouldn’t overemphasize that, you know, we have family issues, therefore we have to get special treatment, we have to have special flexibility or schedules.

So I don’t think we should take that as advantage to get away with a lot of things that men wouldn’t get away with. I’m not suggesting that. But at the same time, because, you know, if we don’t ask for it naturally it’s—my daughter only asks for mom, for example. So not that my husband doesn’t want to help me, you know, when the baby is crying I have to attend to the baby most of the time. So you know, those type of challenges we cannot control. It’s existing, so we cannot ignore the reality a lot of women are facing.

So, again, we shouldn’t over emphasize that. And before we overemphasize it, or we think we have—we are force to overemphasize it, I think the current workforce or the society needs to acknowledge that women are facing different challenges. Then we don’t have to ask for help. We will be performing equally with other men without asking for me. I don’t think I answered your question. If Sarah can add more, that would be great.

BIDGOOD: Yeah. I mean, my thought about this would be that, you know, I often feel sort of very uncomfortable with this idea that women are somehow biologically predisposed to peace, or to avoid conflict, or whatever that is. I mean, that is—I don’t think that there’s any intrinsic biological connection between, you know, sex and your feelings about peace. But we do know that gender is constructed. We know gender’s a construct. And the way that women are acculturated is very different from the way that men are acculturated, at least in our society. And so I think we can talk about the ways in which ways and men are different, and the ways in which they bring different strengths to these issues. But I think in doing so it’s really important not to paint with such a broad brush that we obscure all of the important intersectionalities and diversities within, you know, all genders, and the advantages that those bring to our ability to think creatively and do creative problem solving when it comes to these really tough issues that we’re talking about here.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: The next question will come from Denison University. Please go ahead with your question.

Q: Hi. Having reflected on earlier questions related to career development for women, as someone who’s interested in a career in the foreign relations field, what opportunities or resources would you recommend seeing in the interim period between getting one’s undergraduate degree and attending graduate school?

BIDGOOD: Well, I would say, from my vantage point, I mean, I had sort of a career in between undergraduate and graduate school. I used to work in academic publishing. I would not necessarily, you know, recommend that as your career path, but I do think it’s really important to figure out, you know, what type of work do you like doing? Are you the kind of person who likes sitting down and spending, you know, four hours on a research project? Does that appeal to you? Are you the kind of person who likes facilitating conferences and dialogues? Are you somebody who enjoys making policy recommendations?

So I think that internships or, you know, sort of short-term positions can be a really, really valuable way to kind of crystalize your own thinking about these subjects. So some of the internships that we talked about previously I think could be really valuable. But there are also, you know, many sort of entry-level positions that can help you start to develop those perspectives about the type of work that you like to do in our field. And I at least personally found that experience to be really valuable. But, Jooeun, I don’t know if you have other thoughts about that.

KIM: So I talk to a lot of RAs at CFR. A lot of them are graduates of colleges. And they come to CFR and do amazing work working with senior scholars. And then some really like the research and they pursue Ph.D. programs or master’s programs. And some think that, OK, this is not my strength or interest, and then some go to law school, for example. So I echo what Sarah said. I think it’s important to have a career in between to really learn your strengths and interests. And CFR’s RA positions are one way of getting into the field and knowing your strengths and interests. So I would highly recommend short-term positions like that to really know what you want to do afterwards.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: The next question will come from Brooklyn College. Please go ahead with your question.

Q: Yes. My name is Sarah (sp).

I’d like to actually ask the question to Sarah. And she was saying why women can’t join in the field. Just a comment. There’s this idea—I’m Middle Eastern. And I would like to highlight the role of stereotyping when it comes to joining such fields. Unfortunately, there are many restrictions, and there is the idea of lack of trust when it comes to things like decision making. These sort of things still exist in the Middle East. Women are also still struggling with issues like, you know, more representation to parliaments. And so what is your comment on that? Where can women start in places where stereotyping plays such a destructive role when it comes to women participating in specific fields, or fields like that? Thank you.

BIDGOOD: Thank you, Sarah (sp). I mean, I think that’s a really great question. And it’s one that, of course, we’ll—you know, the answer will depend a little bit on what the unique situation is. So I obviously—you know, you were talking about the Middle East. The situation there would be quite different than perhaps another environment, or another country, or another region. But I do think that this is a place where our male colleagues and male allies can play a really significant and important role. So yes, there are—you know, women can continue to produce great research. Women can continue to, you know, speak authoritatively on subjects.

But if you don’t have the platform or you’re not sort of brought into the inner circle in order to be able to showcase the things that you’re doing, and producing, and thinking about, then it’s—that doesn’t help to solve the problem of kind of breaking in. So, like Jooeun, I’ve had many wonderful male mentors. My boss at CNS, Bill Potter, he has done a great job of, you know, giving me opportunities to showcase the work that I am doing. And I think that’s a really important steppingstone to starting to upend the status quo. So asking the people who are running the conversations, running the negotiations, running the discourse to bring in women, that’s sometimes the first step to giving women the opportunity to demonstrate everything that they can do.

And, Jooeun, I don’t know if you have other thoughts about that, but that was my—the main thing that your comment triggered. So thank you for making it.

KIM: Yeah. I completely agree with that, and nothing to add more.

FASKIANOS: Next question.

OPERATOR: The next question will come from Georgetown University. Please go ahead with your question.

Q: Hi. OK, I think this is for me. My name is Katherine Bloomfield, and I’m part of the security studies program at Georgetown.

And I was wondering—I know there’s a lot of discussion and research on how gender quotas help reduce the disparities we’ve been talking about. And I was wondering if you think that gender quotas would be—

FASKIANOS: Go ahead. Sorry, I thought my—go ahead.

Q: Oh, sorry. I was just wondering if you guys thought that gender quotas would be useful in nuclear nonproliferation conversations, and how and where those quotas would manifest.

BIDGOOD: Well, I think they are extremely useful. So I’m just going to tell you a little anecdote about myself. When I started to become interested in these—in gender issues in a really focused way, I would challenge myself when I came into a room that I thought looked gender balanced to actually go through and count how many women and how many men were in the room. And I was very surprised to find that I was consistently overestimating the number of women who were in a given room, but a really significant percentage. And what that suggested to me is that my barometer is off, even as a woman in this field. And so from that standpoint, I do think that, you know, quota or at least having numerical targets to shoot for can be a really useful technique, because I do not think that we can rely on our own perceptions to accurately determine when there is gender parity.

So one place where I think this can be used really effectively is in, for example, when you are putting together a conference. So say you’re organizing a conference at your home university. Strive for gender parity. Strive for equal numbers of men and women panelists. And keep track of it. When you have a woman decline as a speaker, try to find another woman who can full her position and do an equally good and authoritative job talking about that subject. We need those kinds of targets to help us recalibrate what looks normal, and to get it to be more in line with what the actual gender breakdown is among the workforce globally. So I think that’s a really useful place and a really useful approach. And I think there are a lot of ways that that can effectively get us to a point where we’re able to have bigger conversations about, you know, how to support women and bring women into the field writ large.

KIM: Just to add to that—oh, sorry.

FASKIANOS: Go ahead.

KIM: We can go to the next question.

FASKIANOS: OK. I think we’ve got at least two more. So maybe you can fold your comment in with the response to the next question too.

Operator, let’s go to the next one.

OPERATOR: The next question will come from Skidmore College. Please go ahead with your question.

Q: Hi. I’m Gabby Bakaro (ph).

And I was reading one of Sarah’s articles and saw that there’s been some forward movement for nuclear nonproliferation in North Korea with the dismantlement of its nuclear test site and other things they’ve done, but now with the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty whether the country’s being—how much the country’s being affected by it. I was wondering just in general as to how this pandemic will affect the nonproliferation movement. And I also know that one of the U.N. conferences is being postponed. So—for going over this treaty. So I’m just wondering your thoughts on how this will be affected.

BIDGOOD: Oh, that’s such a great question. And really topical. I mean, the first thing I’ll say is that the article that I think you’re referring to is one that came out earlier this—or, maybe last year, actually. And the situation I think is now changing pretty quickly in North Korea. And I would say there is deeper disinterest in moving forward with the conversation around disarmament than there was previously. So that’s definitely in and of itself a rapidly evolving situation. But with respect to COVID, you know, I think a lot of folks are sort of putting meetings on hold, are waiting to see what is going to happen next.

You’re right that one of these important review conference meetings has been postponed. In some respects, this gives people an opportunity to perhaps make some additional progress that they wouldn’t have been able to as we wait to see when these meetings are going to be rescheduled for. But on the other hand, as we all know, it’s a very difficult and distracting time right now. And it can be really hard to kind of focus on doing your job, for many of the reasons that Jooeun highlighted in her opening remarks.

So I think people are in kind of a wait and see mode. But of course, the risks around nuclear weapons and the challenges that they pose do not wait for pandemics to resolve themselves. So we have to continue to think about ways to do our work in this new mode. And a lot of times that means, you know, virtual meetings, or using technology to try to bridge some of the gaps that now exist, because weren’t not able to physically be together.

Jooeun, I don’t know if you have other thoughts about that.

KIM: So I would just like to add that—so going back to the main question—I think we shouldn’t give up on diplomacy. And I think North Korea is maybe not be interested in pursuing any further talks, because they understand that in election year the United States tends to focus on domestic issues rather than foreign policy issues. So that’s why they gave harder deadlines by the end of December, is because they wanted to move forward. So that doesn’t mean we should stop the entire process. I think after—depending on the election results, or the situation next year, I think we still have hope to engage with North Korea. So I just want to add that we need to continue to engage with North Korea.

FASKIANOS: Great. Well, we are at the end of our time. I appreciate you both being with us, and all those terrific questions. Jooeun and Sarah, do you just want to say any parting words before I wrap up?

BIDGOOD: My only parting word would be that I just want to reiterate again, if anybody has questions or wants to get in touch, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I would be more than happy to set aside some time to talk to you. So I hope you won’t be strangers.


KIM: Yes. Again, if you have any questions for me, on sensitive issues or related to just a particular issue, please feel free to reach out. Thank you.

FASKIANOS: Wonderful. And if you have trouble finding their email addresses, just email us at [email protected], and we can share it with you. You can also follow both of our scholars on Twitter. Sarah Bidgood is on Twitter at @SBidgood and Jooeun is @JooeunKimIR. Our final academic call of the semester will be on Earth Day, which is Wednesday April 22nd at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time. Alice Hill, our senior fellow for climate change policy at the Council, will lead a conversation on building climate resilience.

So I hope you all will continue to follow @CFR_Academic on Twitter. And we are producing a lot of content on the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find that content at CFR.org, on our new website ThinkGlobalHealth.org, as well as on ForeignAffairs.com, the magazine that we produce. We also have a special subscription rate for students. So you can go there for the latest information on the pandemic, as well as other substantive topics. I hope you all are staying safe and well during this challenging time, as we all are working remotely. And of course, all of you students are off campuses or sheltering in place, and we know how challenging it is. So thank you all, again, for being with us.

BIDGOOD: Thank you so much.

KIM: Thank you.


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