The American Chemical Society believes in the strength of diversity in all its forms because, as our core value on diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect states, “Inclusion of and respect for people of all backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, and ideas will lead to superior solutions to world challenges and advance chemistry as a global, multidisciplinary science.”
ACS and its members work to ensure an inclusive chemistry enterprise partly through committees such as the Committee on Professional & Member Relations’ Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Respect (DEIR) Advisory Board, Committee on Minority Affairs, Women Chemists Committee, Younger Chemists Committee, Committee on Chemists with Disabilities, Senior Chemists Committee, and DEIR Subcommittee of the Committee on Committees and through divisions such as the Division of Professional Relations. Other committees, such as the Society Committee on Education, are focused on ensuring diversity in areas of their jurisdiction.
In education, the ACS Project SEED program provides paid summer internships to high school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to participate in research. The ACS Scholars Program annually provides $900,000 in college scholarships to undergraduate students from historically underrepresented groups in the chemical sciences to encourage the study of chemistry. To date, more than 11,000 students have participated in Project SEED, and more than 3,000 students have received ACS Scholars funding. Additionally, the ACS Bridge Program aims to increase the number of chemical science PhDs awarded to students underrepresented in the sciences.
Recognizing the power of partnerships, ACS works to increase diversity by collaborating with organizations such as the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals.
After the tragic murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, ACS redoubled its efforts to work against systemic racism and to support diversity. The society did the following:
▸ Committed an additional $1 million toward advancing our DEIR core value. Half those funds will support the ACS Bridge Program, and the remaining funds will support related initiatives.
▸ Designated its DEIR Advisory Board as the central coordinating body to develop a plan of action with concrete recommendations for the ACS Board of Directors.
▸ Created a DEIR resource web page for ACS members, staff, and the general public.
▸ Launched foundational DEIR training initiatives for ACS employees and ACS members. By the end of the year, more than 2,000 ACS volunteers and all ACS employees will have taken part in training.
At its December 2020 meeting, the ACS Board of Directors took several steps to further strengthen the society’s commitment toward achieving diversity in the chemistry enterprise.
First, the board, acting on the recommendation of the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC), expanded its core value of diversity, inclusion, and respect by adding the important element of equity, thus making it diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect. Equity is an important addition to the core value because it recognizes that we are individuals with differing needs and require different kinds of help and support to thrive within the chemistry enterprise.
Second, the board, acting again on the recommendation of the SPC, added a fifth goal to the ACS Strategic Plan: “Embrace and advance inclusion in chemistry.” The SPC, which annually examines the ACS Strategic Plan, believed it was important to add this goal to elevate ACS’s efforts to promote DEIR. This goal will also help us focus on identifying and dismantling barriers to success and create a welcoming and supportive environment for all ACS members, employees, and volunteers to thrive.
To ensure that ACS’s vision and mission are inclusive of everyone in the chemistry enterprise, the board added the word all to both the vision and the mission:
▸ b>ACS vision: “Improving all people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry”
▸ ACS mission: “Advancing the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and all its people”
ACS has accomplished a lot in its journey to foster diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect, but we need to do much more for the changes to be meaningful and sustained.
Success will require the involvement of every ACS member. If you are a volunteer, consider scheduling a DEIR session with your committee, local section, technical division, student chapter, or international chemical sciences chapter. Consider using some of the wonderful ACS DEIR web-based resources, or invite an ACS Board member, SPC member, or senior ACS leader to address your group. Please share your successes with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.