Three years ago, Teri Quinn Gray (ACS director, District III) told me that, as a White male leader with a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect (DEIR), I have a responsibility to be proactive in promoting and making change. Her comments provide a clear message: it’s not about intent; it’s about impact. It is important that all privileged individuals recognize their privilege and that all privileged leaders embrace their responsibility to act for social justice.
The American Chemical Society strives to be a welcoming, inclusive, and supportive professional society. Have we achieved our goal? No. Unfortunately, at present, everyone does not feel included and respected in ACS. Do we engage in many activities that move us in the right direction? Yes. For more than 90 years, ACS has had committees that advocate for marginalized members of the chemistry enterprise. Moving forward, how can ACS do better? What are we doing for lasting change? How do we make it different this time?
The ACS Board of Directors added goal 5 to the ACS Strategic Plan, “Embrace and advance inclusion in chemistry,” which is elaborated as “Promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect; identify and dismantle barriers to success; and create a welcoming and supportive environment so that all ACS members, employees, and volunteers can thrive” (emphasis added). Promote. Identify. Create. These are actions that must result in impact. We don’t need another study or task force . . . we need action.
▸ We now have a newly formed Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Respect, which is run by a new vice president for DEIR, who reports directly to the CEO. We now have a mandatory 4-hour training session for staff. Additionally, during May and June we held three 4-hour workshops to hear from a variety of ACS members and staff about what actions need to be taken to change ACS culture to ensure that everyone feels included and respected in ACS.
▸ We now have a voluntary session for ACS volunteer leaders titled “Leading Inclusively: Beyond Lip Service,” which started in March and is offered throughout 2021. The course will help guide participants to use a common language for DEIR discussions with the goal of embedding inclusive behaviors in everyday culture. I encourage all journal editors, officers of local sections and divisions, officers of international chemical sciences chapters, faculty advisers to student chapters, career consultants and course facilitators, and members of the ACS Board of Directors who haven’t participated to register.
▸ During the past 9 months, four members of the board of directors have published Comments in C&EN detailing their commitment to and perspectives on DEIR. Comments from Christina Bodurow of District II, Gray of District III, Lisa Houston of District IV, and ACS director-at-large Ingrid Montes described activities that ACS is currently engaging in, and they suggested activities that individuals and entities can initiate to make our society more welcoming and inclusive. We all have a responsibility to ensure that everyone is valued for what they bring to our society and to the chemistry enterprise.
▸ The board now holds a “diversity moment” at the beginning of each board executive session to reinforce our individual and collective commitments to DEIR. During this moment, a board member describes something in their experience that has had an impact on them and may offer a suggestion for how the board might change to increase its positive impact on DEIR in the society. Some committees and groups within ACS have been doing this for a while, and the board is following their lead.
We will continue to grow Project SEED (a summer program for economically disadvantaged high school students) and the ACS Scholars Program (scholarships for undergraduate students from racial and ethnic groups historically underrepresented in the chemical sciences), but we will not use these established programs as our reaction to the question “What is ACS doing about DEIR?” We must do more.
We need everyone in the chemistry enterprise to make a difference. When you are speaking with 1 person or in front of 1,000 people, let them know your personal commitment to goal 5 and DEIR. We must leave ACS stronger than when we inherited it from our dedicated predecessors. Creating an ACS that is truly welcoming and inclusive is the challenge of our time as ACS members, volunteers, and leaders. We need action! We cannot afford to fail.
I encourage members and volunteers to reach out to me with their thoughts on inclusion and equity in ACS (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I am personally and professionally committed to goal 5. Are you?
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.