IHS Chemical Week


Virtual Conference Celebrates the Past, Present and Future of Women in Chemistry

9:25 AM MST | February 28, 2011 | By THERESA KOTANCHEK

Over the past few generations, women in the sciences have increased in number and great strides have been made to introduce young women to the possibility of science as a career. While it’s true that since 1984, the number of females in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields has nearly doubled to 14 percent, this figure has remained fairly constant over the past decade. We can do better.  During the 2011 International Year of Chemistry (IYC), which coincides with the 100th anniversary of Marie Curie becoming the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry, we have a tremendous opportunity to showcase the important role that women play in the past, present and future of science.  

We all know how tough it has been for women innovators over the years, and how our culture continues to provide challenges. But in spite of that – or maybe because of it – many women are charging ahead and finding true fulfillment in the sciences. In fact, each woman who goes forward, despite the obstacles and ignorance, trods the path smoother for the next generation.

I think of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, who in the mid-1800s faced early rejection from medical school because of her gender, and struggled to get a hospital to hire her. She persevered and succeeded, but that wasn’t enough. She made it her mission to help other women get trained in medicine and even provided many of them with a place to practice once they received their degree. And I understand that we all have that same responsibility – a responsibility to women AND to science!

On March 1, the first day of Women’s History Month, Dow will bring together recognized female leaders in the sciences for a unique discussion. “The Future of Women in Chemistry and Science” is a virtual conference hosted by Dow that will bring together 60 speakers to provide 60 perspectives on encouraging women in science in 60 minutes. This program, the first in a series entitled The Future We Create, fosters executive leadership and mentorship throughout the year as part of Dow’s celebration of IYC.  

Conference participants will have the opportunity to interact with featured speakers and other participants via digital and social media channels adding their voices to the overall dialogue on how to advance the profession. Featured speakers include Mariette DiChristina, the executive editor of Scientific American; Dr. Connie Chow, executive director of the Science Club for Girls; and Linda Rosen, CEO of Change the Equation.

The virtual conference will take place on Tuesday, March 1, at 11 a.m. ET and is available to anyone – at no cost – at http://futurewecreate.com. See a preview on YouTube and follow “Future We Create” on Facebook and Twitter to participate.

Through mentoring and education, we can encourage more women to enter STEM fields and to play a role in innovating solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.  I look forward to encouraging this next generation of women scientists and to referring to these young women as my colleagues.

Theresa Kotanchek is vice president of sustainable technologies at Dow Chemical.

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