The American Chemical Society’s (ACS) mission is “to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.” In pursuing its mission and goals, ACS systematically applies the Core Value of Diversity and Inclusion for a diverse community of highly-skilled chemistry professionals and the advancement of chemistry as a global multidisciplinary science.
The data for chemistry and the physical sciences show an underrepresentation of women at all levels among Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indian/Alaska Natives relative to the general US population. The underrepresentation of these racial/ethnic populations increases in the trajectory from Bachelor’s degrees to Doctoral degrees to employment. White females are underrepresented as well, but this underrepresentation decreases along the same course. In contrast, Asians are overrepresented at all levels in comparison to the general US population.
Among US citizens and permanent residents, of the 11,615 Bachelor’s degrees awarded in Chemistry in 2009, 5,825 (50.2 percent) were awarded to women. Among these Chemistry degrees awarded to women, 3,518 (60.4 percent) were awarded to White students; 895 (15.4 percent) to Asian/Pacific Islander students; 592 (10.2 percent) to Black students; 508 (8.7 percent) to Hispanic students; 42 (0.7 percent) to American Indian/Alaska Native students; and 270 (4.6 percent) to students of other or unknown race/ethnicity. (National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, special tabulations of US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, Completions Survey, 2001–2009).
For Doctoral degrees awarded, data for minority women are available for the Physical Sciences. Of the 2,486 Doctoral degrees in the Physical Sciences awarded to US citizens and permanent residents in 2009, 809 (32.5 percent) were awarded to women. Among these Physical Science degrees awarded to women, 565 (69.8 percent) were awarded to White students; 86 (10.6 percent) to Asian/Pacific Islander students; 41 (5.1 percent) to Black students; 46 (5.7 percent) to Hispanic students; 4 (0.5 percent) to American Indian/Alaska Native students; and 67 (8.3 percent) to students of other or unknown race/ethnicity. (National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, special tabulations of US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, Completions Survey, 2001–2009).
Of the 334,000 employed physical scientists at all degree levels in 2006, 95,000 (28.4 percent) were women. Among these women employed as physical scientists, 68,000 (71.6 percent) were White; 17,000 (17.9 percent) were Asian; 3,000 (3.2 percent) were Black; and 5,000 (5.3 percent) were Hispanic. Numbers are not reported for American Indian/Alaska Natives because the estimate is less than 500. (National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System).
To enhance the participation of women of color and to advance their careers, the ACS received a grant from the National Science Foundation in 2010 to sponsor travel awards,
symposia, and networking events, and to produce online interview videos with successful women chemists of color. Based on outcomes from the grant, ACS established the Women Chemists of Color program in 2012 to continue the activities. These efforts have been aimed at broadening awareness of challenges for women of color found at the specific intersection of gender and ethnicity; gathering more data about women chemists of color; and providing a forum for building community among women of color. Full program information can be found at www.acs.org/wcoc.
Many of the ACS Women Chemists of Color program offerings have included evaluation components which have allowed participants to identify areas of need and prioritization. Some responses for needed resources were universal such as acquiring scholarships and identifying research topics. Other needs were more specific to this intersection of race/ethnicity and gender and included mentoring by other women of color and outside of gender and/or ethnicity; providing support mechanisms for the unique challenges women face with respect to their cultural norms and expectations; compiling and disseminating resources for women of color in the sciences; increasing numbers in academia; and networking. Priorities identified include resources for career and personal transition points; panel discussions with shared life experiences; data collection; mentoring and support; roles in Society leadership; and, broadening awareness among non-minority women and men. A dominant theme in evaluation responses was the significance of being ‘the only one’ with both positive and negative associations, such as hypervisibility, isolation, tokenism, and stereotyping.
In addition, three governance bodies of the ACS— – the Women Chemists Committee (WCC), the Committee on Minority Affairs (CMA), and the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board (D&I) —serve women of color within the Society. The WCC strives to be leaders in attracting, developing, promoting, and advocating for women in the chemical sciences in order to positively impact society and the profession. CMA aims to lead change in institutional culture within the ACS and the chemical enterprise and achieve full participation and expression of intellectual and creative capacity of underrepresented minorities. D&I is tasked with promoting and advancing diversity and inclusion within and on behalf of the Society.