Professionals from the nuclear industry gathered to mark International Women's Day by pledging to address gender balance in Cumbria.

A dedicated Cumbria branch of Women in Nuclear UK was launched at an event held today at the newly opened National College for Nuclear at Lakes College, Lillyhall.

Cumbria is currently one of the worst regions in the country for diversity. The gender pay gap is at 22 per cent and on average, men earn £3.10 per hour more than women.

Claire Gallery-Strong, head of the WiN Cumbria team said: "We have to do something. Diversity is so important to a successful business.

"We have very few women in senior leader positions - we need more women to come through.

"Today is about celebrating women and pressing for progress and I feel really passionate about that. We all need to do our part.

"It's not about excluding men, we need more men to be vocal on the topic and say 'where are our women?'"

Speaking at the event, Miranda Kirschel, founder and president of WiN, said: "The message on International Women's Day is about driving change and progress and the positive things we can make happen together.

"It's all about diversity and inclusion - it's not just about women and women getting a voice but it's also about having men involved.

"There's so much more that needs to be done and we really encourage you to make that progress in your own organisation.

"Probably 60 per cent or more of the nuclear industry is based in this region so it is so important to have this network for people here."

Dorothy Gradden, who was recently awarded an OBE for her services to the nuclear industry, also spoke at the event.

She said: "It's a real privilege to be here on International Women's Day and the centenary of women being given the vote.

"We've moved a long way but I think there's still more for us all to do when we think about how we encourage people and what we give them.

"There are still examples of exclusion. Equality, diversity and inclusivity is a key focus for Women in Nuclear network."

Mrs Gradden said it was "absolutely amazing" to look around and see so many women, after being the only woman on her degree programme to study nuclear engineering at Manchester University.

She added: "The nuclear industry is an absolutely fantastic industry to work in. Here in Cumbria we have some of the most exciting opportunities."

There are currently 8,254 males and 2,681 females working at Sellafield. However, the gender balance is beginning to improve - this year 35 per cent of the company's intake was female - three times the national average.

Mrs Gradden said it was "great" that there are "lots of females wanting to start their career at Sellafield".

The WiN Cumbria team aims to attract younger women into the nuclear industry through engagement with local schools and universities.

Currently only 22 per cent of the UK’s nuclear industry is female, and this number declines significantly at senior levels, statistics that WiN UK is working to change.