countries and cultures. Doing so can reveal common factors that can facilitate shared solutions across national boundaries, and uncover factors unique to a national or cultural setting that may require unique approaches.
Four major hurdles to collecting the required data emerged during the course of this project. First is the absence of much data altogether. Many countries simply do not collect data on the status of women scientists at all, or do so in only a limited way. Second, where data are available, they are often not disaggregated into individual disciplines but are combined, for example, into general areas such as physical sciences or biological sciences. Third, where data for individual disciplines are collected, they are often not comparable across national borders because of the disparate nature, degree of completeness, assignment of responsibility, and methodological inconsistency of data collection across regions. No sole entity has taken the lead for gathering and analyzing global data on education and labor market trends, not only in the chemical sciences, but also for STEM fields in general.
Fourth, no consensus on an operational definition of a chemist exists beyond the notion that “a chemist is what a chemist does.” For many, “chemical sciences” generally includes chemistry and closely related sciences that are grounded in fundamental chemical principles. These may include, for example, biochemistry, materials sciences, biophysical chemistry, chemical biology, and some areas of nanosciences. In some cases, these fields are considered separately; in others, they may be classified into chemistry, biology, physics, or even some engineering fields. These differences make cross-national comparisons difficult. Furthermore, because chemists work in a variety of venues, most of which are outside the more-easily counted academic settings, surveys can often overlook them.
Nonetheless, within these constraints, meaningful data can still be extracted that allow some cross-cultural comparisons. Sources of data include journal publications, government reports and statistics, reports compiled from professional organizations and technical societies, and personal inquiries to contacts in other countries. The National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators is a particularly rich source of limited global information available.
An example of the desired kinds of comparisons is given in Table E-5-1. Trends over a number of years (not given here) demonstrate that the percentage of women receiving first and third degrees in chemistry has been increasing steadily. Table E-5-1 shows the percentage of women receiving first (bachelors) and third (doctorate) degrees in three Western countries: Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Table E-5-1 also compares these numbers with the percentage of women on chemistry doctoral faculties in the same countries. The close tracking of the percentage of degrees awarded to women among the three countries, and the comparable drop in the percentage of women faculty members, suggest the existence of common factors that require further examination.