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Career Tips

Finding your affinity group

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
July 4, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 26


Illustration of a group of runners.
Credit: Shutterstock
Interest groups make life more interesting.

It’s not surprising that people enjoy spending time with others who share a common interest or background. Often, these groups are formalized into affinity groups, or employee resource groups when formed through an institution.

These types of groups have historically been formed by underrepresented populations, but can be formed based on almost anything, including sexual identity, ethnicity, age, veteran status, disability status, hobbies, and so on. Their goals are to share experiences, mentorship, and solutions, and not to exclude anyone. In fact, many affinity groups welcome people from all walks of life who have a sincere interest in learning about and supporting their goals.

As more and more people are working remotely now, affinity groups can provide a way to meet and connect with others. Is an affinity group right for you?

You can learn from your peers. Affinity groups can be a great way to meet people who have successfully overcome the obstacles that you are now facing. You can learn what they did, and what they wish they had known, to overcome those challenges. They may even tell you what they did wrong, so you can learn from their mistakes instead of making them as well. You may be able to identify mentors willing to listen to the specifics of your situation, offer advice, and build a long-term relationship.

You can advocate for a cause. Some affinity groups participate in advocacy activities, or collectively bargain with an employer. For example, a Women in STEM group may advocate for lactation space at the company, or closer parking for pregnant women. If these issues resonate with you, you could volunteer to help. You could collect ideas as to how other organizations deal with these issues, or compile data to make a business case for your objective. This will raise your visibility within the group, and within the organization as well.

If affinity groups intrigue you, here is a list of a few affinity groups for chemical professionals.

ACS Younger Chemists Committee

ACS Senior Chemists Committee

ACS Women Chemists Committee

ACS Committee on Minority Affairs

ACS Chemists with Disabilities Committee

ACS Gay and Transgender Chemists and Allies

American Indian Science and Engineering Society

Chinese American Chemical Society

National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals

National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers

Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science

Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first issue of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (


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