By Trinity Hale
WCC celebrated 90 years with the symposium “Reflections of Past Chairs.” This symposium included seven past Committee Chairs; Margaret Cavanaugh (‘86-‘88), Christina Bodurow (‘95-‘97), Frankie Wood-Black (‘98-‘00), Carolyn Ribes (‘03-‘05), Janet Bryant (2010), Judith Cohen (‘11-‘13), and Amber Charlebois (14-16). Each past chair reflected on their time of office, the challenges, the triumphs, the progress we’ve made, and what still lies ahead.
Each past committee chair shared personal insights of what was facing women chemists during her tenure. Margaret Cavanaugh talked about the decadal survey, which provided key insights into women chemists’ place in the society, and the importance of networking and mentorship. Under Christina Bodurow, WCC re-defined its mission, vision, and goals for the first time since 1922, and started the WCC/Eli Lilly Travel Award. Frankie Wood-Black highlighted ChemCensus data, such as 16% of women took a hiatus from work compared to 1% of men and the career implications. She noted the call to action from Madeleine Jacobs in the “10 Things We Need to Do for the New Millennium”, such as mentorship, visibility, and demographics. Under Carolyn Ribes and Amber Hinkle, WCC piloted new programs such as the PROGRESS initiative for early/mid-career women, and collaborated with the Joint Sub-Committee on Diversity and now the Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board. Janet Bryant highlighted the launch of programs such as the Women Chemists of Color, IUPAC Distinguished Women in Chemistry/Chemical Engineering Award, and everyone’s favorite “Just Cocktails”. Judith Cohen led the committee when the WCC Rising Star Award was created to recognize exceptional mid-career women chemists on a national level, at a time when 29% of mid-level career women left the industry, and only 24% of STEM jobs were held by women. Immediate past committee chair, Amber Charlebois discussed the continued goal to improve awareness of diversity and inclusion and increasing the percentage of women winning national awards. Key highpoints are the second edition of the book, “Mom the Chemistry Professor,” and two articles featured in C&EN bringing to light how infertility and sexual harassment affect women chemists.
Overall, the 90th Past Chair Symposium was inspiring and thought provoking. Hearing first hand personal accounts of the WCC journey over the past gave insight to where WCC started - as a Women’s Service Committee by “Chairmen” Glenola B. Rose - to how far we’ve come in garnering our seat at the table and letting our voices be heard. Much has been done, and there is much to do, but WCC is poised to continue to strive toward attracting, developing, promoting, retaining and advocating for women in the chemical sciences.