Unsung In Organic | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 87 Issue 18 | p. 4 | Letters
Issue Date: May 4, 2009

Unsung In Organic

Department: Letters

ONCE AGAIN C&EN listed the names of its 2009 national award winners as part of the preliminary program for the 237th ACS national meeting (C&EN, Jan. 26, page 53). Once again I was disappointed at the relative dearth of female awardees overall and the stark lack of women recognized by organic chemistry awards. All nine Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards went to men this year, perhaps because three women were named in 2008. To date, 16 of 240 total Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards have gone to women. The Arthur C. Cope Award (established in 1973) has never been received by a woman. Representation of female organic chemists on the membership rolls of the National Academy of Sciences and among Nobel Laureates is equally small. There may be a larger issue at play.

According to a report from the ACS Committee on Professional Training, in 2006, 52% of all undergraduate chemistry majors were women, and almost 36% of chemistry Ph.D. degrees were awarded to women, numbers that were lauded as improvements. However, between 1997 and 2006 only 13.6% of chemistry Ph.D.s awarded to women were in organic chemistry, according to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

Is anyone else disturbed? If there really are no women who are worthy of winning an award, isn't this troubling? The subdiscipline of organic chemistry faces challenges that are at least equal to those in other male-dominated areas such as physics and some branches of engineering. I hope ACS will encourage organic chemists to take this issue seriously. Women should be welcome in any area of chemistry, and it is time that this is reflected in the number of degrees earned and in receipt of chemistry's top awards.

Anne M. Wilson

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