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Celebrating diversity

by Bibiana Campos-Seijo
February 6, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 5


Last week I came across a new term—diversity fatigue—while doing some research online. Writing in Forbes, diversity consultant Janice Gassame Asare says, “Ineffective programs along with the timing of implementation can lead to feelings of diversity fatigue,” and she goes on to define the term as “a feeling of exhaustion in regard to diversity and inclusion issues.”

It looks like some people may have “grown weary and tired of talking about diversity,” Asare notes. This situation is sad and infuriating. Those who get tired of talking about diversity and inclusion are probably part of the problem. Or they are part of the solution but having a hard time focusing on programs and activities that will move the needle—that I can forgive. Try talking less and doing more.

To those who are experiencing diversity fatigue, I say: imagine how fatigued you’d be if you were at the receiving end of practices that are unfair and exclusive. Those people are probably not just tired but also frustrated and angry, feeling as if they’ve had enough of suffering exclusion, inequality, and unfairness every minute, every hour, every day.

Diversity efforts don’t benefit only people whom society has marginalized, like people of color and LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning) people; they benefit everyone because people will be treated with respect, hired and paid equally, and promoted and treated fairly. Equity of this kind is essential to growth and allows innovation and creativity to reach new heights.

Diversity was a theme in the US in 2020, and it will continue to be part of the conversation in 2021. The American Chemical Society, for example, has recently announced that it is strengthening its “commitment to creating a more diverse and inclusive chemistry enterprise” by introducing a couple of amendments to the ACS Strategic Plan.

The first amendment is modifying the core value of diversity, inclusion, and respect to also include equity.

The second amendment is introducing a fifth goal: “Embrace and advance inclusion in chemistry.” The goal says, “Promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect; identify and dismantle barriers to success; and create a welcoming and supportive environment so that all ACS members, employees, and volunteers can thrive.”

ACS president H. N. Cheng wrote to all members explaining these changes. Board member Lisa Houston plans to write an ACS Comment for C&EN’s March 29 issue, digging deeper into the history and evolution of diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect at ACS and why the board felt so strongly about these additions to the 2021 ACS Strategic Plan.

C&EN continues to champion diversity in the chemical sciences and just started our celebration of Black History Month. We recently updated “Black Chemists You Should Know About,” a selection of profiles of noteworthy chemists who improved the world we live in through their work in and dedication to chemistry. Also, on Feb. 22, we have the second edition of C&EN’s Trailblazers, a special issue dedicated to celebrating the diversity that drives chemistry forward. This year’s edition celebrates Black excellence in chemistry and chemical engineering and will be guest edited by a true trailblazer in the field—follow @cenmag on Twitter to be the first to hear why she feels so passionate about this project. The issue will feature interviews and profiles written by Black scientists and journalists about Black chemists and chemical engineers. There will also be a guest editorial by the immediate past president, current president, and president-elect of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. Stay tuned. Let’s celebrate!

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


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