Breaking Barriers in Science to Achieve Gender Equality

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By Christiana Briddell, Portfolio Manager, ACS Green Chemistry Institute

Women and girls have an enormous role to play in creating a more sustainable world, which is why Gender Equality is a UN Sustainable Development Goal.

By Christiana Briddell, Portfolio Manager, ACS Green Chemistry Institute

Women and girls have an enormous role to play in creating a more sustainable world, which is why Gender Equality is a UN Sustainable Development Goal. Due to social, economic, and cultural factors, women—especially in the developing world—are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and simultaneously important actors in mitigation and adaption.

In chemistry, women are agents of change in developing more sustainable chemistries and products through green chemistry. However, women chemists face barriers that need to be systematically addressed in order to strengthen and amplify their voices.

GWB 2023 bannerGWB 2023 bannerOn February 14, the IUPAC Global Women’s Breakfast brought groups around the world together to discuss “Breaking Barriers in Science” in conjunction with the U.N. Day of Women and Girls in Science. The ACS celebrated this event by organizing a webinar discussion on Breaking Barriers: Women in Green and Sustainable Chemistry, and several ACS groups organized local events as part of the Global Breakfast.

These discussions highlighted the challenges that women face when are forging careers in the sciences, including navigating pregnancy and the demands of family. For example, women working in the laboratory who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be exposed to hazards and workplace stressors that affect fetal and newborn development. Women seeking to make informed choices may find a lack of research on how hazards like chemicals, radiation, nanomaterials, endocrine disruptors, as well as stressors like excessive noise and heat, affect the fetus at different stages of development. The risks and unknowns may contribute to the higher numbers of women who leave full-time employment in the sciences after the birth of their first child compared to men and women with no children.

Other challenges may come in the form of overcoming bias. A recent report on gender bias in publishing from the Royal Society of Chemistry found that women are more likely to have an article rejected without review than men. Journals can work to address this by recruiting female reviewers and editors.

Participants also spoke to the importance of mentorship in their career development, as well as the benefit of getting involved in the support network of scientific societies. For links to additional resources on this topic, see: ACS Celebrates the IUPAC Global Women’s Breakfast.

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