EuChemS #GWB2024 event discusses unconscious biases

EuChemS' 2024 Global Women's Breakfast (GWB2024) event, titled “Catalysing Diversity – How to Tackle Our Current Biases”, was held on 27 February. It was 4th GWB event of EuChemS, this time adressing tackling the biases we live with.
Marton Kottmayer,

The event began by EuChemS President Angela Agostiano introducing EuChemS, as well as the GWB initiative and the previous events organised by EuChemS. She then explained the rationale behind this year’s topic: she highlighted the imbalances in gender statistics about employment in STEM, and traced the issue back to unconscious biases.

Following her introduction, Jan Mehlich briefly described his area of expertise related to biases, applied ethics, and set the framework for the discussion. He presented different, contrasting perspectives of addressing and tackling biases. He was followed by Carla Seidel, Senior Vice President at BASF, who shared insights from the standpoint of an industry leader. She highlighted awareness, transparency and deliberate actions such as diverse interview boards and leadership quotas. She explained that one must be aware of one’s internal biases. After her, Cristina Todasca, Vice Dean of the Chemical Engineering Department at Politehnica University of Bucharest discussed how biases may differ from reality. She illustrated this with examples related to biases about gender, age and geographical location, citing her experiences as a mother, past Chair of the European Young Chemists’ Network (EYCN) and a researcher from eastern Europe respectively. Then, Marina Resmini, heading the Chemistry Department of Queen Mary University in London, talked about the “prejudice of the anchor” – making decisions on only initial information. She outlined key approaches to tackle this type of bias: firstly, taking time to make a decision, as bias dominates in rushed situations, secondly, listening to others and being in a diverse environment, and thirdly, remaining active, and discussing the issue, as for many, this bias is unconscious. Last, but not least, EYCN Chair Claudia Bonfio addressed the topic of affinity bias – people gravitating towards those with similar backgrounds. She explained this bias as a reflection of an outdated society, and emphasized that interdisciplinary and international cooperation is needed. She highlighted that this is often a strength of younger chemists, who thrive in interdisciplinary and international environments

The event was wrapped up by a lively and engaging discussion addressing the questions raised by the audience during the registration for the event, as well as during the talks themselves. The recording of #GWB2024 will soon be available on the EuChemS YouTube Channel, where all previous GWB events are uploaded as well.

This EuChemS Global Women’s Breakfast event is part of IUPAC’s Global Women’s Breakfast (#GWB2024) initiative.

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