How the Committee on Minority Affairs is catalyzing change

photo of Ann Kimble-Hillby Ann Kimble-Hill, Chair, ACS Committee on Minority Affairs
February 24, 2020 | APPEARED IN C&EN, VOLUME 98, ISSUE 8
In 1993, the American Chemical Society organized and charged the Committee on Minority Affairs (CMA) to develop and oversee the society’s long-range plans and programs to ensure, promote, and recognize the participation and accomplishments of minorities. CMA has taken this charge and developed a mission statement that aligns with that of ACS: advancing a broader, inclusive, and equitable chemistry enterprise by empowering underrepresented groups, stakeholders, and marginalized peoples for the benefit of the world.

We have developed three major goals to help us achieve this mission: (1) increase diversity awareness by providing professional development and recognition opportunities to underrepresented groups within the chemical sciences; (2) strengthen ACS programming to reflect a broader, more inclusive, and equitable chemistry enterprise; and (3) enhance shared expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion content and act as a resource to societal stakeholders.

These goals are ambitious and require partnerships across geographical and technical backgrounds. While some of this work will require leadership from the national committee, catalyzing this type of broader change requires buy-in, input, support, and energy from intellectual leaders, advocates, and members at the local level. Does your local section have a minority affairs committee? Has your regional meeting thought about ways to highlight the society’s diversity, inclusion, and respect core value? Is your technical division interested in developing strategies to diversify your speakers list? We are looking for partners who want to help carry out our vision of diversifying chemistry through the transforming power of equity and inclusion.

From a programmatic perspective, CMA has planned two umbrella symposia for 2020. At the spring national meeting in Philadelphia, a presidential symposium titled “Reimagining Diversity and Equity in Honor of Robert Lichter” will feature talks discussing Robert Lichter’s work and his impact on ACS, chemistry, education, diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as showcase successful programs that continue this vision and give ideas for local implementation. We also look forward to our CMA luncheon, where ACS president Luis Echegoyen will deliver a keynote address.

In Philadelphia, we are excited to offer our first set of workshops. We invite your graduate students and postdoctoral trainees to preregister for the workshop “Career Launch and Acceleration for Minority Graduate Students and Postdocs,” facilitated by COACh. Junior faculty, faculty mentors, and training directors can preregister for the “Incorporating Expectations and Communication into Mentoring Relationships to Promote Equity and Inclusion” workshop, facilitated by the National Research Mentoring Network. Please refer to the Philadelphia meeting planner for details on our events.
During the fall national meeting in San Francisco, CMA will host a thematic symposium titled “Colloidal Dispersions and Complex Fluid Interfaces: Symposium in Honor of Bettye Washington Greene.” Greene was the first African American female PhD chemist employed in a professional position at Dow Chemical, and the symposium will highlight her accomplishments, as well as other diverse chemical practitioners in the colloidal technical division and industrial chemistry spaces. There will also be a poster session for educators who have developed programs geared toward educating and training our diverse learners. We are also looking for technical divisions wanting to partner with CMA to address equity topics and issues in their programming.
CMA is continuing its educational efforts to advance the ACS core value of diversity, inclusion, and respect. We will provide society-wide support to implement best practices aligned with the ACS goals of member education, empowerment, support, and communication.

We’d like to take this opportunity to clarify two important terms: equality and equity. Equality is a complex but familiar term from a mathematical framework. However, it has broader political, economic, and social implications. Equality suggests that we are comparing identical entities with respect to some stated attributes. However, our various backgrounds and experiences develop us into people with very specific biological, emotional, scientific, and historical attributes that will never be equal to those of another person.

Equity is a better term for discussing the remedy to those inequalities of experience. Historical biases and systems have caused unequal ethnic representation in education and science. When we highlight chemists like Percy Julian, Rosalind Franklin, Marie Daly, and St. Elmo Brady, we diminish their accomplishments if we do not talk about them within the context of the educational and occupational inequities they experienced. Many of these inequities still persist and are currently experienced by our fellow members. Therefore, CMA continues to seek partnerships to remedy the barriers to diverse representation in ACS’s programming and education efforts.

CMA is happy to help provide resources on how you can help make the society a more welcoming environment, both locally and globally. E-mail us at Check out to get more information on how to be an advocate, recognize those who have made a difference by being an advocate, and get resources for programming to encourage and promote diverse scientists.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.