(You make me feel like) a chemistry professor

Mar 27, 2019
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As many, many studies and articles have told us, there are not enough women in science, and in chemistry in particular. Similarly, those who are in the field are not getting the awards, opportunities, or promotions that they deserve. While a discussion of the reasons why this is happening would probably be redundant, I’m not sure that I have seen a discussion of simple ways to move forward. So, I would like to suggest a meeting of the minds to put forward some very simple ideas that we could start doing right now, and don’t require governmental funding or a revision of the tenure system, etc. I’ll kick things off with a couple of thoughts:

1. Although we probably know a lot of great women doing science, I wonder how often we talk about them. For example, I was recently at a conference and asked a fellow scientist who she knew in a particular field that was doing great work. She (note: a woman) gave me the name of a man (note: a man).* In retrospect, there are also some women doing great work in that field. The point is: keep tabs on other great women and help to spread the word. Great!

*Of course many situations are more complicated than just “I have two scientists that are relevant in my head and I picked the man”, but I think the general idea may hold.

1 (part 2). On a related point, the ‘word’ we should be spreading is not that they are really nice, or that they have a cute child, or that what is happening in their respective two-body problem, but that their scientific contributions are important, and that they have some profound insights into their field. Let’s get away from talking about women’s personal lives, as I can only hold so much information in my tiny brain, and it would be more useful to know about their professional interests and successes.

2. Nominate a woman for an award.

3. If you are a woman, ask questions at talks (and introduce yourself first).

4. In terms of getting opportunities to work with a journal (assuming that my experience holds true on a broader scale): if you are in a position where you might be expected to have a website, PLEASE put one together and keep it updated on a ~yearly basis (this actually holds for men too). While of course you can find out a lot about someone by their publications, having a clear, concise message about what you’re interested in really makes a big difference. After all, these days it’s not clear just by looking at a paper whether the topic is something near and dear to a particular scientists’ heart or whether they were perhaps just helping out with a technique, etc. Knowing what really drives someone makes it much easier for me to feel confident that you are the right person to ask to write a Review article, or to referee a paper, etc.

What else can we do?

Catherine (Associate Editor, Nature Chemical Biology)


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