Earlier this month I was honoured to be a keynote speaker and open the International Nuclear Youth Congress for 2020 which was held in Sydney. This annual conference brings together people from all facets of the nuclear industry and was attended by 350 delegates from more than 35 countries. The theme for this year was Diversity in Nuclear and the mission was to promote and enable the diversity of people engaged in the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology. A key objective of the congress was to facilitate interaction between participants, particularly in the sharing of knowledge and ideas between professionals of different personal and professional backgrounds and different generations of nuclear experts.
My keynote set the tone for the 5-day conference and was titled ‘Unconscious Bias in Cross Cultural Interactions’. The presentation was very well received and highlighted the diversity in the room and also how bias can interfere in the process of working together and optimising results. It also prompted a discussion on the biases that exist within the industry itself and how it is perceived by those who are outside of it. A number of people mentioned that having a presentation such as mine was a great way to reset their thinking and raise awareness before they began the interactive, collaborative part of the conference.
I reflected after the congress, on the many conferences around the world which have international delegates and where there is an assumption that interactions will be mutually beneficial. I considered the numerous conferences that I have attended over the years where this was the case and how short-sighted I was. What I learnt from the Diversity in Nuclear congress was that if we are explicit about our assumptions and intentions, then it makes the interactions much more effective.
I have no doubt that face to face conferences will be back in vogue after this current COVID-19 pandemic has passed. Humans are social beings and the desire to share human connections are strong - this is something that the virtual world makes difficult to execute on a deep and personal level… but that is my bias!!