International Women's Week: Radioactivity attracted Matilda to nuclear power

Matilda Hjelmberg works with Vattenfall’s nuclear power operations and lives with her family in the countryside outside of Gothenburg. The office is located in the city, but because many of her colleagues are currently spread across large parts of Sweden she often works from home and attends meetings via Teams:

“I am fascinated by radioactivity and ionised radiation! It is something that you can neither see, hear nor feel but that can have such tremendous effects, not to mention nuclear fission that can produce these enormous quantities of energy. I am interested in environmental and energy issues and the connection between them, such as the role of nuclear power in electrification of society. The discussion has grown tremendously over the past year.

I am an M.Sc. in Industrial Engineering and Management. I studied chemical engineering at Chalmers University and chose to get a Master’s degree in energy and the environment with courses in nuclear power. It was when I did my master thesis at Ringhals Nuclear Power Plant in southwestern Sweden that I felt that it was nuclear power I wanted to continue working with. So, I applied and got a spot on Vattenfall’s international trainee programme in 2010 and since then I have been at Ringhals and Vattenfall. I have worked as a development engineer, radio physicist, specialist within waste and licensing issues and as a department manager. I have been able to try many different things. I have worked with safety audits, radioactivity and disaster recovery. I have been the head of fuel charging for nuclear fuel and I have been involved with decommissioning and final repository.

For the past couple years I have been in a business unit called Fuel, Engineering & Projects where I have been responsible for the permit process associated with new nuclear power plants. Since last summer, Vattenfall has been investigating the construction of small modular reactors, SMR, at Ringhals. It really is a current topic and, in the autumn, when the new Swedish Government took office it was the first time that I heard my own work area mentioned in a government policy statement! It really feels huge and shows how important our work is.

When the business unit was reorganised several years ago it proved to be difficult to get women to apply for management positions, so management took the initiative to create a network for female employees within three business units called Q Network, which I am chair of. 

Today we are one-third women within the business unit and in managerial roles it is very equal, so quite a lot has happened. But there are few of us women in senior specialist and project manager roles, and within several subject areas there are still few women who apply. Q Network arranges highly appreciated networking meetings for female employees and supports management in the strategic equality work. Among the things we do is play a role in reviewing advertisements within male dominated areas to get more female applicants. Research shows that men generally apply if they know that they fulfil half of the criteria for what they are applying for, while women want to live up to all the requirements in the advertisement. Then it can be important to look at what is actually required for the position and what is rather merited experience.

In Q Network we have a very good dialogue with management and HR with respect to these issues and we find that it is appreciated. I am glad that I work at a company who takes equality matters seriously, it is important to me.”