If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Our challenge: Increase and retain a diverse pipeline

by Ingrid Montes, ACS director-at-large
November 26, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 43


Ingrid Montes.
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Ingrid Montes

It is wonderful to see the great efforts and achievements that are being made globally to promote a culture of inclusion and respect. For almost a decade, I have seen how the American Chemical Society has been working to create safe, inclusive environments within the organization. The addition of goal 5 to the strategic plan has catalyzed actions of the committees, divisions, and local sections to look for ways to also advance the diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect core value. Two important achievements are the establishment of the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Respect and the inclusion of goal 5 in the presidential succession plans. However, I would like to focus my Comment on the challenge to increase the diversity of the chemistry pipeline.

The 2020 US Census shows that the country’s racial and ethnic makeup is now more diverse than ever. We would then expect to see more people of underrepresented races and ethnicities in the chemical sciences pipeline. Unfortunately, the numbers haven’t caught up to their proportions of the population. Before the pandemic, chemistry was lagging in diverse representation, and many people have been concerned that the pandemic would exacerbate these gaps. Increasing diversity under complicated circumstances is a big challenge. Finding ways to continue advancing toward a diverse pipeline will require a better understanding of the causes of exclusion and a critical evaluation of what barriers to entry need to be addressed.

According to recent reports, some of the reasons why students of color are discouraged from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers are inadequate high school science education, a lack of mentors and role models, economic challenges, and a need for more financial aid, among other factors. Another cause of the leak in the pipeline, particularly for women, is the time it takes to earn a PhD and establish a career path.

ACS should be a home for all chemists and chemical engineers.

Although these are without any doubt important factors, we must also note that a diverse pipeline includes a wide range of identities and complexity in terms of intersectionality. What generally works well for some groups may not work for others, and the barriers by discipline and career stage are not necessarily equivalent. Closing the underrepresentation gap will require the adoption of a data-driven approach along with application of evidence-based practices and specific interventions for each group.

ACS has many programs and resources that can be leveraged to help diversify chemistry while informing students and their parents about career opportunities in chemistry. Some of the programs include National Chemistry Week, Chemists Celebrate Earth Week, Chemistry Festival, Project SEED, ACS Scholars, ACS Bridge Project, the Reactions video series, ACS Webinars, and Careers and the Chemical Sciences. ACS members can use these resources to promote chemistry in classrooms, during community events, via social media—wherever there is an opportunity to speak about chemistry and its significant contributions to improving all lives.

We can also leverage groups such as the Younger Chemists Committee and student chapters, both undergraduate and graduate, to help us diversify the chemistry pipeline. Additionally, as ACS members, we can share our success stories that will encourage others to pursue careers in STEM. We can also serve as mentors and encourage our coworkers to do the same.

There are many things we can do to attract people from underrepresented populations into the pipeline. However, these efforts are not enough to address the bigger challenge of how to retain them. According to a recent Nature news article, a higher percentage of male postdocs from underrepresented groups in comparison to White postdocs are deciding to get out of research or leave science altogether, even in cases in which the researchers were established in their fields, had completed their training, or had obtained higher academic degrees (2021, DOI: 10.1038/d41586-021-01089-6). It is imperative to continue implementing changes consistently and ensuring that they are sustainable and effective to retain a diverse workforce.

ACS should be a home for all chemists and chemical engineers. I ask you to join me in committing to getting involved and recognizing that, individually, we all play a role in developing the future STEM pipeline. No matter your career stage, we need you to help build a more diverse STEM pipeline and a better future for everyone.

This will be my last Comment as director-at-large. I am honored and very proud to have been part of a dynamic and hardworking visionary team, which helped guide the society through several critical transitions and challenging times. I want to extend my gratitude to all ACS staff, collaborators, and volunteers for their unconditional support. To all members, thank you for everything you have done, are doing, and will continue to do to move the ACS Strategic Plan and the chemistry enterprise forward. Thank you for allowing me to represent and serve the society.

If you have thoughts or comments, please share them with me at I look forward to hearing from you all.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.