The ACS Senior Chemists Committee (SCC) hosted a webinar on July 9 to address systemic racism and its impact on ACS members and others in the chemistry community, including academia, government, and industry. SCC developed this free webinar to give the guest panelists and participants an opportunity to identify specific actions to encourage engagement by minority chemists and diversify the chemical enterprise and ACS. ACS President Luis Echegoyen moderated the session that included four panelists. Dr. Denise Barnes, retired from the chemical industry and the National Science Foundation, provided input from the industry point of view.
A recording of the event can be accessed here. Suggestions for action and ideas were shared during the session and thereafter, via the Senior Chemists mailbox. Many industrial employers have demonstrated the value of a diverse workforce, and many chemical companies have developed strong diversity programs.
A number of the suggestions made by attendees merit discussion by employers. The recommendations were not discussed in detail and require further study.
- Mentor: The pipeline of scientists and specifically chemists must be broadened and nurtured. Early intervention is crucial. Industrial chemists could have a significant impact through direct mentoring of K-16 students. Existing programs within ACS (e.g., Project SEED and ACS Scholars) as well as broader STEM initiatives (e.g., National Research Mentoring Network) should be enhanced and enlarged.
- Broaden pathways for chemistry access: There are numerous examples of industry partnerships with community colleges that could be enhanced.
- Educate ourselves: Continue respectful conversation with individuals who have experienced racism to increase awareness of the impact on chemists and the chemical enterprise. Educational materials for chemists should be developed regarding implicit bias, micro-aggressions and the impact on the chemical enterprise.
The chemical industry can be a powerful force to address systemic racism. Continued conversation is essential to remain on a path of respectful engagement of the entire chemical enterprise. It is time to act and invest in the next generation of chemists.