At the fall 2018 American Chemical Society national meeting in Boston, councilors participated in a powerful discussion about harassment and its damaging effects on our members, on chemistry education, and on the overall discipline of chemistry. Suggestions and conversations during and after that meeting led to further discussions among the ACS Board of Directors and to the decision at the board’s November 2018 meeting to add the term respect to the ACS core value of diversity and inclusion.
“We believe in the strength of diversity in all its forms, because inclusion of and respect for diverse people, experiences, and ideas lead to superior solutions to world challenges and advances chemistry as a global, multidisciplinary science.”
The core values of any organization are the primary guiding principles that dictate the behaviors of those in the organization. The core values reflect what is important to the organization, its worldview, and its fundamental beliefs. In addition to the core value of diversity, inclusion, and respect, ACS’s other core values are passion for chemistry and the global chemical enterprise; focus on members; and professionalism, safety, and ethics.
ACS has long valued diversity in membership and encouraged the inclusion of minority groups in ACS activities and leadership. These efforts have grown over the years. Committees within ACS with a focus on such goals include the Committee on Minority Affairs, the Committee on Chemists with Disabilities, the Women Chemists Committee, the Younger Chemists Committee, and the Senior Chemists Committee. A Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board grew out of the Joint Subcommittee on Diversity, a collaboration of individuals across ACS committees. The advisory board communicates directly with the ACS Board Committee on Professional and Member Relations to support diversity and inclusion.
At national meetings we have receptions dedicated to diversity and to LGBTQ+ people and allies, as well as programming to discuss issues related to the challenges faced by members in minority groups. Some challenges are unique to particular groups, but the need for respect is universal.
Why add respect to the core value of diversity and inclusion? It is quite possible for an organization to be diverse in membership without being inclusive, or to be inclusive in structure without having a truly diverse, fair, and respectful culture. A lack of respect is shown by behaviors that are dismissive of others, or worse, by harassment in its many forms. Respect is shown by listening to others and seeking to understand their viewpoints.
ACS must be an organization in which respect is ingrained and that has zero tolerance for harassment and lack of respect. Adding the word respect to our core values may seem like a small change, but it is a reminder to all of us to show respect to our colleagues and to challenge disrespectful behaviors at meetings and in our workplaces and educational institutions.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have produced several consensus reports on topics such as sexual harassment, preventing bullying, bias and barriers, and the health of LGBT people. Input from our own members, as evidenced by the council discussion in Boston, shows that a large percentage of members have witnessed or have been victims of harassment at school or in professional venues, including ACS events. Such behaviors can discourage members from participation and even cause them to walk away from a career in science. The chemistry enterprise cannot afford to lose people who could be valuable contributors to scientific advancement because of the disrespectful behavior of others.
Respect also factors into our relationships with other scientific societies and in our international relationships. Internationally, we need to respect local traditions and cultures while standing up for human rights as described in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Global Chemists’ Code of Ethics.
Please become familiar with ACS policies, including the ACS Volunteer/National Meeting Attendee Conduct Policy and the Chemical Professional’s Code of Conduct. By actively participating in making our meetings and member activities welcoming professional venues, we can support vigorous scientific debate and the sharing of discoveries and advancements in an atmosphere of professionalism and respect.
My thanks to members who have shared their concerns and suggestions on this topic. As always, I welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.