EuChemS GWB2023 event explores the roles of women scientists in conflict

On the morning of 14 February, the EuChemS's 2023 Global Women's Breakfast was held. The title of the event, "Women scientists at the forefront of global conflicts" described the important, yet not often discussed topic.
Marton Kottmayer,

The event, hosted by Angela Agostiano, EuChemS President-Elect and Chair of the EuChemS Task Group on Inclusion and Diversity, Floris Rutjes, EuChemS President and Pilar Goya, the first woman President of EuChemS from 2018 to 2020, featured high profile international speakers. Women, undertaking scientific jobs in international organisations related to conflicts as well as chemistry were invited to present about their areas of expertise, and engage with each other as well as the audience.

After the welcome address by the hosts, the first speaker was Imee Su Martinez, from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). She discussed the OPCW Associate programme at her university, a global outreach initiative focusing on chemical ethics and safety. She introduced her group’s mentoring programme for peaceful chemistry, founded on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Following her presentation, Sarah Stubbs from the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (dstl) described the categorisation of chemical weapons, and gave an insightful account of the important forensic work undertaken by international organisations in order to detect where atrocities involving chemical weapons were committed as well as to prevent such attacks. She also shared a case study, as well as her personal motivation.

The last presenter was Annette Lykknes, from EuChemS’ Working Party on History of Chemistry. Her topic was focused on women scientists’ role in researching radioactivity. In this fascinating delve into history, we could hear about how the discovery of radioactivity as a novel area of science gave an opportunity for women scientists to break traditional male-dominated narratives of laboratory work, however the darker side of radioactivity – its weaponisation in the Manhattan Project, and the role of women in this – was also discussed.

Following the presentations, an engaging Q&A session ensued, where the speakers discussed the audience’s questions about various topics including careers in the featured organisations, the dilemma between privacy and safety in information sharing, and the role of ethics in chemical education, amongst others.

Members of the EuChemS Secretariat Nineta Hrastelj, Marton Kottmayer and Claudia J. Hernando were tasked with organising the event and overseeing its smooth proceedings. 2023 marked EuChemS’ 3rd participation in IUPAC’s Global Women’s Breakfast (GWB) initiative. In 2022, our international speakers examined the issue of the “leaky pipeline” amongst women in STEM, and in 2021, EuChemS focused on Leadership Development and women leaders amongst other topics. A recording of the event will be available on the EuChemS YouTube Channel soon.

Know more about