We continue our series to celebrate the accomplished and visionary women working at UNVIE with Political Officer Rachael Parrish. Rachael answers questions about her work, what inspired her to take up this career path, and why it’s important to promote gender equality in government and in STEAM.
Describe your job / what you do?
I work at the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna (UNVIE) as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) and specifically focus on our multilateral diplomacy efforts with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA was founded to promote the safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear technologies—goals often overshadowed by headlines on Iran’s nuclear activities. As the peaceful uses portfolio lead, I work to demonstrate U.S. support for the IAEA’s development work and oversee $37 million in U.S. allocations to these development projects in areas such as human health, food and agriculture, or water resource management.
How did you decide on this career path?
I decided to become an FSO because I heard a former U.S. ambassador speak at my undergraduate university and I thought, “If he can do that job and become an ambassador, I definitely can!” I pursued a job at UNVIE because I wanted to get more involved in multilateral diplomacy. Multilateral diplomacy is incredibly different than working bilaterally; I enjoy multilateral diplomacy because I get to work with colleagues from many different Missions simultaneously, which allows me to learn about each country’s nuanced perspective on these issues.
What is it like being a woman working in a STEAM field?
Working with the IAEA and with other diplomats in Vienna is incredibly inspiring because of the focus on increasing the representation of women in the nuclear field and support an inclusive workforce for both men and women.
Why is it important that women work in STEAM fields?
Women bring a different perspective into the workplace. Encouraging women to pursue careers in STEAM fields can introduce innovative thought-processes and drive productivity that can help solve global issues like climate change, pandemics, or food security.
How does the work you do help UN member states and improve the lives of people around the world?
My work supports the IAEA’s development mission, which is very broad and benefits millions of people around the world. For example, the United States funds a project in Senegal that is improving the lives and livelihoods of Senegalese farmers by working to eradicate the tsetse fly, a pest that causes diseases in both humans and animals. Another example is a project we recently supported to help Mexico procure a Linear Accelerator, a piece of equipment that Mexico will be able to use to treat people locally for a wide variety of cancers.
What is the United States doing to promote gender equality in government and in STEAM?
For example, last year the IAEA established the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Program, which provides support for young female students for masters programs and internships at the IAEA. The United States was proud to be one of the first to provide funding for this initiative to enable young women to pursue a career with a focus on nuclear science, technology, safety, security, or non-proliferation studies.
How does your work further U.S. interests?
Generally speaking, supporting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy helps strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime and thus further U.S. national security. However, there are many specific examples of how IAEA projects directly benefit the United States. For example, the United States helps fund an IAEA project in Guatemala that utilizes the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) to control fruit fly populations and prevent them from migrating north and damaging U.S. crops, thus literally saving billions of U.S. dollars for our farmers in the southern United States.