Advancing A More Diverse Profession | February 7, 2011 Issue - Vol. 89 Issue 6 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 6 | p. 36 | ACS Comments
Issue Date: February 7, 2011

Advancing A More Diverse Profession

By Diane Grob Schmidt and Teri Quinn Gray
Department: ACS News
Keywords: ACS Comment, Schmidt, Gray
Diane Grob Schmidt, 2010 Chair, Board Committee on Professional & Member Relations
Credit: Courtesy of Diane Grob Schmidt
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Diane Grob Schmidt, 2010 Chair, Board Committee on Professional & Member Relations
Credit: Courtesy of Diane Grob Schmidt
Teri Quinn Gray, 2011 Chair, Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board
Credit: Eric Crossan
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Teri Quinn Gray, 2011 Chair, Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board
Credit: Eric Crossan

In December 2010, the American Chemical Society Board of Directors updated the ACS strategic plan for 2011 and beyond. A core value of this plan, which can be found at www.acs.org/strategicplan, is promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the chemical enterprise.

Earlier last year, the ACS Board asked the Board Committee on Professional & Member Relations (P&MR) to review and facilitate implementation of a series of diversity-related recommendations developed by the Task Force on Implementing the ACS Diversity Reports. The recommendations were designed to advance diversity and inclusion within ACS (including the volunteer governance structure) and throughout the profession.

These suggestions include helping underrepresented minority students attend ACS conferences, encouraging the successful transition and retention of such students in the chemical sciences, disseminating information on successful college and university programs that encourage students to pursue and maintain studies in chemical science, recognizing K–12 teachers for outstanding efforts, and incorporating diversity in ACS leadership development courses. P&MR prioritized the recommendations last June and continues to work with various ACS committees to facilitate progress.

Given the breadth of the challenge and the number of ACS units involved, the task force also suggested the creation of a new ACS Board committee to coordinate and lead efforts in diversity. After careful deliberation, P&MR recommended that, rather than create additional structure, the existing Joint Subcommittee on Diversity (JSD) be reconstituted to form a new Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board (D&I). The board voted to accept this proposal.

D&I is headed by Teri Quinn Gray, chair of the former JSD and a research manager at DuPont. Gray is also president of the Delaware State Board of Education. D&I is made up of 13 representatives, drawn from the following ACS units: the Committee on Professional Training, the Committee on Minority Affairs, the Committee on Technician Affairs, the Committee on Chemists with Disabilities, the Diversity Partner Program, the Division of Professional Relations, the Senior Chemists Task Force, the Women Chemists Committee, and the Younger Chemists Committee.

In addition to monitoring and facilitating progress on the diversity task force recommendations, D&I will work to raise awareness among ACS members and stakeholders about the importance of and key developments relating to diversity and outstanding achievements in this area. D&I will also develop strategies for ACS on this issue, periodically disseminate an inventory of activities, and advise the board on ways to increase diversity in ACS governance and other volunteer activities. D&I will hold its first meeting next month at the ACS national meeting in Anaheim, Calif., and will report regularly, through P&MR, to the ACS Board.

We are pleased to report that the Sloan Foundation has funded a new ACS award to recognize underrepresented minorities in research and development, the first of which will be presented at the ACS fall national meeting in Denver this year. In these and other diversity efforts, ACS will continue to seek partnerships with other organizations to advance mutual goals.

We are also delighted that ACS greatly exceeded its goal and achieved an impressive 25% increase in underrepresented minority members last year. But we remain concerned that African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans together still make up just over 5% of total ACS membership. And the data are no better for the science and engineering workforce as a whole, where underrepresented minorities make up just 4.5% of the workforce, according to the National Science Foundation.

If ACS is to remain the preeminent global community of chemistry-related scientists and engineers, we have to do better. We have to encourage the best and brightest to pursue careers in the chemical sciences—regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, presence of disabilities, or sexual orientation. Data show that creativity and innovation flow better from a diversity of ideas and experiences. Moreover, the Census Bureau predicts that in 12 years, more than half of all children in the U.S. will be nonwhite.

Given the low percentage of underrepresented minorities in science today, the overall U.S. population projections, and continued concerns about the future U.S. scientific talent pool, leaders in government, industry, and academia are paying more attention to increasing diversity in science. Now more than ever, we need chemistry professionals to lend their energy and expertise to this long-term pursuit. We hope you will consider joining the effort, and we would sincerely appreciate your input on this topic. Suggestions can be sent to pmr@acs.org.

Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ACS.

 
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