Sexism plagues major chemistry conference: Boycott emerges amid growing outrage

A group of female scientists promptly called for a boycott, but faced backlash from a prominent chemist who dismissed their efforts as “nonsensical” and “trendy whining about supposed ‘gender inequality.’”

[ via Salon ]

Chemists call for boycott over all-male speaker line up

An open letter on the website has called for a boycott of the 15th International Congress of Quantum Chemistry (ICQC), to be held in Beijing in June 2015. The move came after a list was posted on the conference website that allegedly showed no women among 24 speakers and five chairs and honorary chairs. The list, screenshots of which were seen by Nature, has since been taken down.

[ via Nature News ]

The Elsevier Foundation honors Early Career Women Scientists from Developing Countries for Research

On February 15th, 2014, five women chemists will be honored with the Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early Career Women Scientists in the Developing World, for their research that looks to nature for ways to address cancer, malaria and other medical problems. The winning researchers, representing five regions of the developing world, are from Indonesia, Jamaica, Nigeria, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

[ via Elsevier ]

‘Stemming the tide’ of women leaving chemistry

Recent studies have shown that there are still hurdles that women have to overcome, but successful departments have felt the benefit of mentoring and creating a supportive environment. More still needs to be done to help fix the leaky pipeline – and some of the problems, such as wider societal perceptions and expectations, are bigger than the departments they affect. However, by continual monitoring and increased awareness, the proportion of female senior scientists should improve.

[ via Chemistry World ]

Diversity in Science: Leading the Way

In chemistry, where undergraduate gender parity has existed for at least a few decades, the pipeline is still leaky. The numbers of women staying in careers in chemistry decline steadily after graduation.

[ via Chemistry World ]

Short film “A Chemical Inbalance” interviews women chemists in UK

We get numbers to quantify the gender disparity in academic chemistry in the UK, as well as to identify where in the career pipeline the disparity becomes worse. We also get numbers about how women chemists are paid relative to their male counterparts, and about relative rates of tenure that can’t be blamed on choices about childbearing and/or childrearing.

[ via Scientific American ]

STEMinist Profile: Barbara Holtz, Business Executive, MaterialsDesign

Dr. Barbara Holtz

Business Executive


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was very good at math and interested in technology from a very young age. I also grew up in East Germany where there was much less choice for studies in Social Sciences, Languages and Humanities—especially when you were not “aligned” with the system. Also: in East Germany women were much more assertive and studying a “male” subject was less of an exception.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
After studying physics and teaching at a University for a year I joined a company which makes scientific software. Instead of working in Development I started to work in Sales, selling technology and highly complex software to scientists is a very rewarding career for myself.

The most exciting project was a few years ago when a major chemical company decided to start a new research group and I worked very closely with the Manager of that group, not only eventually selling our technology but also placing a scientist as a contract research scientist with that group. Apart from that my sales role has given me the opportunity to travel to many different countries, meeting many different cool people along the way.

Role models/heroes:
Marie Curie as a scientist, Ginni Rometty as a Business Leader and Angela Merkel as a physicist turned Chancellor.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Technology is all around us, most people take it for granted: new materials, new ways of communications, so many things. So being in close contact to how those technologies come about is very exciting every time. As a Sales person I manage to get to go to many different companies and see what is happening in their R&D departments, I have learned about flavours and fragrances, about polymers for everyday materials, about catalysts and consumer packaged goods such as shampoos.

Understanding the challenges that are coming with the development of new materials with new properties and their production satisfies my neverending curiosity. To give an example: shampoo makers are challenged to develop new shamposs which slide out of the bottle easily, but then not off your hand—we have all been in the shower and the shampoo does not behave as we would like it to—the requirements for those material properties are usually conflicting and never cease to amaze me. It makes me look at the world in a different way every day.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t just think of STEM as lab work, there are a million other jobs out there, which require the analytical skills which come with a STEM education. Marketing, Business, Support and Training jobs are just as important to scientists and require STEMinists. Those jobs can be fitted around normal family life as well. Later in a career there are possibilities to turn years of experience into a freelance consulting job or on the way there is a chance to start your own business, who knows….

Favorite website/app:
LinkedIn and Twitter.

Website: LinkedIn
Twitter: @holtzbarbara

STEMinist Profile: Eunice Nuekie Cofie, President and Chief Cosmetic Chemist

Eunice Nuekie Cofie

President and Chief Cosmetic Chemist
Nuekie, Inc.

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
As an African-American woman, I had always been made to feel that I was not beautiful because of my ethnicity. I was often picked on by my peers because of my dark skin and kinky hair as a child and remembered crying endlessly about the hurtful comments that damaged my self-esteem. My saving grace was my father’s encouragement for me to pursue an understanding of science. My father would spend countless hours teaching me how to conduct science experiments as little girl which led me to have a strong love for it and science became my strength. I understood that I may not be the prettiest girl in the room but I could be the smartest girl in the room. This love led me to major in chemistry as an undergraduate student at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

One day while in my organic chemistry lab class, my eyes were opened to the world of cosmetic science. My professor wanted my classmates and I to understand how to practically apply organic chemistry to our everyday lives. So he decided to have us create lotions and hair relaxers instead of conducting the regular lab experiments. I was bitten by the creative bug and began working alongside my professor learning as much as I could about cosmetic science.

I discovered in my research that the pigment of my skin was created by a substance in our cells called melanin which led me to realize that those cells were divinely placed there and that my skin color did not make me inferior. I also realized that the cosmetic and the dermatological industry lacked effective treatments that took into account the unique structure and function of ethnic skin and hair. I realized at that moment this was the path that I wanted to take. My dream was to close the gap in the quality of treatment products available to ethnic people.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My current project that I am working on for my company is a product-line which will treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark marks on the skin) in ethnic skin. I am excited about the launch of my company’s first product-line this fall.

Role models/heroes:
One of my heroes is Madam C.J. Walker for her entrepreneurial spirit which led her to become the first female millionaire. I appreciate how she was able to take an idea and develop it with the resources she had around her. My other hero is Janice Bryant-Howroyd, Founder and CEO of ACT-1 because she is able to translate her Christian faith into doing well in business and in her community.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working as cosmetic chemist because I have an opportunity to change lives by inspiring ethnic men and women to discover they are perfect in beauty.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Pursuing a Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics (STEM) career as women, especially as a woman of color, can be quite challenging due to the social constructs which do not heavily encourage women to assume roles in this field of work. I would say do not be afraid to take the lead and to realize you have everything within you to succeed! I would also encourage more women to pursue entrepreneurship in the STEM and bring new innovations to our society that will create world-class companies and increase job growth.

Favorite website or app:

Twitter: @nuekie

STEMinist Profile: Bryn Lutes, Asst. Director for Teaching and Technology

Bryn Lutes

Bryn Lutes

Assistant Director for Teaching and Technology
The Teaching Center at Washington University in St. Louis

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have always loved to read, learn new things, and occasionally conduct science experiments at home. When I was in middle school, my parents gave me a microscope kit for Christmas, and the main thing I remember about it is that I refused to follow any of the provided instructions because I wanted to make up my own experiments. I had a decent interest in biology, but LOVED chemistry when I finally took it in high school.

I’ve also always been fascinated with women fighting to break into traditionally male occupations and activities–especially when it involved disguising themselves as men. If I had enjoyed analyzing and not just consuming literature as much as I loved science, my career choices could have been very different.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I can’t say that I’ve worked on anything cutting-edge. My dissertation research fell in the realm of “let’s poke it and see what happens” basic research. I can say that I felt the coolest when working on my undergraduate research project. I was given a project that had already failed for several Master’s students, and I was able to get some interesting results out of it.

Role models/heroes:
I have “met” so many amazing women via twitter that they definitely warrant a mention here. I also have to include Sophia Hayes, from my dissertation committee, who is currently the only female tenured faculty member in that chemistry department.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love learning new things, and I love that my background in chemistry helps me easily explore new topics in more depth than I could otherwise. One of the things I love about my current job is that I have projects that require learning new things all the time. My next project to tackle is in the computer programming/web design realm, and I am really excited to get started.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Keep on keepin’ on, girlfriend. Do what you love, and don’t ever feel like you have to be someone you are not in order “fit in.”

Favorite website or app:
My favorite app is definitely Evernote (though it also exists as a website), and at the moment my favorite website is Lifehacker.

Twitter: @technobryn