Science knows no gender

Angela Agostiano reports on the first initiatives of her presidency, highlighting the commitment of EuChemS to supporting women in chemical context.
Angela Agostiano,
European Chemical Society (EuChemS)

How inclusive is chemistry as a scientific endeavour? Why would that even be important, and how do diversity and inclusion (or the lack thereof) influence professional life? These and other related questions have been discussed in the first EuChemS activities I was involved as President and Chair of the Task Group on “Inclusion and Diversity”.

In January our delegation was invited to join the EYCN Delegates’ Assembly, which was held in London, hosted of the Royal Society of Chemistry. The presence of delegates from several parts of Europe in the magnificent headquarters of RSC, immediately made it clear to us the science always overcomes the boundaries that politics sometimes creates.

The EuChemS delegation made up of me, Secretary General Nineta Hrastelj and Science Policy and Communications Officer Marton Kottmayer, was instantly involved in the fresh mood of enthusiasm and participation, alongside with a high-quality program. During. the meeting, I led a discussion on inclusion and diversity, starting from my personal experiences and challenges I had to face to arrive to be a full professor and the first female president of the Italian Chemical Society. The lively conversation brought about several critical questions, comments on how to overcome difficulties, and shared experiences.

Marton and Nineta were indeed involved in a quite amazing interactive session, asking participants to be part of a simulation exercise on the steps needed at the EU institutions to arrive at a final decision on science related topics (in our case the ban of PFAS). The exercise was greatly appreciated, although it left everyone with the awareness that bringing scientists and political bodies together for the purpose of making a decision, is not an easy process.

The topic of women in science was again addressed in the fourth event appointed by EuChemS in the framework of the IUPAC Global Women’s Breakfast, held in conjunction with the U.N. Day of Women and Girls in Science, to underline the concept that science knows no gender. However, the representation of women in the global scientific community tells a different story. Despite the pressing need for diverse perspectives, UNESCO and the “She Figures” report of the EU Commission, document as women comprise fewer than 30% of researchers globally. This year, EuChemS was proud to host on Tuesday 27 February 2024 an online event, titled Catalysing Diversity – How to Tackle Our Current Biases”. Connecting junior and senior researchers in academia and industry we aimed to identify the challenges they face, and the biases they must overcome.

Take home message: let’s change the game and play together: Empowerment of Women in Chemistry must happen through breaking bias and raising awareness