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Bringing GRC’s Power Hour to ACS

by Bibiana Campos Seijo
March 16, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 11


Photos of Elsa Reichmanis and Michele Thomas.
Credit: Courtesy of Reichmanis and Thomas
(L) Elsa Reichmanis and (R) Michele Thomas.

At the upcoming American Chemical Society national meeting in Orlando, Florida, C&EN will host its first Power Hour for Diversity in partnership with the Gordon Research Conferences (GRC).

The Power Hour is an initiative launched by GRC back in April 2016. It is an informal session designed to “discuss challenges women face in science and issues of diversity and inclusion,” according to the GRC website. They are inclusive gatherings, open to all, with the goal to support the professional growth of all members of the scientific community by providing an open forum that enables discussion and facilitates mentoring. The Power Hours actually grew out of the chemistry community at GRC; they are modeled after an informal gathering for women that the Physical Organic Chemistry GRC used to host. And the Power Hours have proved incredibly popular. The model is simple: the chair of the meeting selects a woman from the science community to serve as the session organizer. The hosts use their knowledge of the specific challenges within their communities to tailor the program’s format to fit the needs of their groups. GRC offers support as needed and provides suggested talking points and additional resources to help the hosts get started.

So why partner with GRC to bring the Power Hour program to ACS? In the spring of 2018, C&EN organized a symposium on sexual harassment at the ACS national meeting in New Orleans. The symposium was spurred by our 2017 cover story about sexual harassment in the sciences. This piece of reporting was very influential within the community, with comments coming from far and wide. Here’s one representative example:.

“[Sexual harassment] is an incredibly pervasive problem and putting a spotlight on it, discussing it, and raising awareness of it is the first step towards changing a culture that allows and fosters this kind of sexual hostility towards women in STEM and other disciplines.”

Reader interest in the story was so great that we decided to follow up with a podcast episode, a webinar, and the symposium and a bystander intervention workshop in New Orleans. Attendance at all events, and especially the symposium, was phenomenal, with people sitting on the floor at the front of the room and standing at the back. It demonstrated that people really wanted to learn and create change.

At that symposium, GRC president and CEO Nancy Gray talked about the impact of GRC’s Power Hours. She recounted something we’d also heard while reporting the sexual harassment story: women, particularly students, felt empowered to speak up about harassment after attending a Power Hour. We wanted to follow up on the momentum from the symposium and felt that C&EN and GRC could combine their resources to raise awareness about issues affecting diversity in the chemical workplace. We are excited that GRC agreed to partner with us. The format of our joint Power Hour will include 10-minute presentations by our speakers, Elsa Reichmanis, a chemistry professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Michele Thomas, a retired chemist from ExxonMobil. We will then divide into small groups for discussions based on questions that GRC has developed. We will conclude by hearing from each table about its discussion.


If you are attending the ACS meeting in Orlando, please join us on April 2 for the first C&EN-GRC Power Hour. It will take place from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. at the Hilton Orlando, Lake Mizell A/B. All are welcome to get involved and help create solutions.

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


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