Symposium Overview: Social & Chemical Science of Diversity Equity

by Srikant Iyer, Dontarie Stallings, Rigoberto Hernandez

The Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity (OXIDE) organized the Social & Chemical Science Diversity Equity Symposium to showcase the extensive actions carried out by chemistry departments as a result of participation in the National Diversity Equity Workshops (NDEWs) staged biennially since 2011, and to discuss the barriers and solutions that have been elaborated by the social science community.

During NDEWs, leading diversity experts present their pertinent peer-reviewed research with chemistry department chairs through presentations and panel discussions. Department chairs and their representatives generate practical policies and procedures aimed at reducing inequities faced by individuals from underrepresented groups (URGs) within the chemistry community.

The symposium at the ACS Philadelphia National Meeting followed the blueprint of OXIDE’s NDEWs. It featured social and physical scientists discussing their findings regarding barriers faced by URGs and solutions for overcoming barriers. Dr. Srikant Iyer, a member of the OXIDE team, summarized the structure and outcomes of past NDEWs. Dr. Michelle Francl (Bryn Mawr College) discussed the need for diversity and it’s significance in improving intellectual capital. Sara Prince (McKinsey & Company) presented an evidence-based study, at the industrial level, demonstrating how diversity at leadership positions correlates to higher profit margins, emphasizing the essential roles of departmental leaders. Dr. Karen Fleming (Johns Hopkins U.) addressed unconscious bias (as one of the biases) and its effect on hiring, retention and promotion of women. Dr. Sandra Laursen (U. Colorado, Boulder) discussed how professional climates within departments affect graduate student’s interests in pursuing faculty positions. Dr. Karl Booksh (U. of Delaware) detailed the pipeline issues faced by students with disabilities and initiatives that needed to improve the climate and foster inclusive professional climates. As a part of the policy and procedural outcomes of the NDEWs, one of the centerpieces of the symposium were the presentations delivered by Dr. Nicole Sampson (Dept. Chair, Stony Brooke University) and Dr. William Tolman (Chair, Dept. Chemistry, Univ. of Minnesota). Both department chairs are active participants at the NDEWs and they elaborated on the efforts they have made to implement recommendations learned from NDEW workshops within their respective departments. Drs. Sampson and Tolman have implemented policies that focus on improving their department’s climate, promoting diverse hiring, effective promotion/retention of URG faculties, and initiatives to improve inclusive excellence. Overall, the symposium highlighted vectors that are essential for advancing of policies and procedures to generate a more diverse and inclusive professional climate.