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Women in Supramolecular Chemistry – Narratives of Resilience and Community Building in a Gender-Constrained Field

Leigh, Jennifer S and Hiscock, Jennifer R. and McConnell, Anna J. and Haynes, Cally J. E. and Caltagirone, Claudia and Kieffer, Marion and Draper, Emily R. and Slater, Anna G. and von Krbrek, Larissa and Hutchins, Kristin and Watkins, Davita and Busschaert, N. and Jolliffe, Katrina A. and Hardie, Michaele J. (2022) Women in Supramolecular Chemistry – Narratives of Resilience and Community Building in a Gender-Constrained Field. In: Ronksley-Pavia, Neumann,, Michelle and Neumann, Michelle and Manakil, Jane and Pickard-Smith, Kelly, eds. Academic Women: Voicing Narratives of Gendered Experiences. Bloomsbury, London, UK. ISBN 978-1-350-27426-6. (In press) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:96771)

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Women have always been interested in science (Fara 2018). However, historically and to this day they have faced barriers that have blocked them from succeeding and progressing. In 2018, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) conducted a review on diversity (and the lack thereof) in the chemical sciences (RSC 2018), and followed this with a report on the particular challenges for women in terms of their progression and retention (RSC 2019a). The RSC found that women faced a multitude of small obstacles throughout the publishing process leading to their publishing less, in lower impact journals, and being cited less than men (RSC 2019b). This catalogue of small barriers could be considered as a series of microaggressions, a term used by Sara Ahmed (2012, 2017) and other critical race scholars. In the United States, various programmes have been funded to combat the attrition of women from the sciences with varying amounts of long-term success (Rosser 2017). While the numbers demonstrate that more women are recruited into undergraduate courses, internationally the growth at the most senior levels is disappointing, and in some subjects and in some universities the numbers of senior women in science are in attrition (Mason and Ekman 2007; Rosser 2017). When considering the lack of progress on gender balance in science, it is important to note that gender cannot be considered in isolation, and that gender is not binary. Women and other marginalized genders face intersectional barriers. ‘Intersectionality’ is a term first used by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) to describe the racism and sexism faced by Black women. Protected characteristics, including sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, and disability, all result in barriers that compound to prevent an individual from reaching their full potential.

There is a notable lack of diversity within academia (Fryberg and Martinez 2014; Shelton, Flynn and Grosland 2018), and even more so within science; people of colour and those marginalized due to other protected characteristics such as sexuality or disability are all minority groups (CRAC 2020; McWhinne 2017; McGee and Robinson 2020; RSC 2018). Since the 2020 #BlackLivesMatter protests brought attention to the lack of diversity in society, more Black scientists have written about their experiences and the lack of diversity around them (see for example Coughlan 2021; Makgoba 2020; Prasad 2021; Vaughan 2020). As a result, we are also slowly beginning to see more awareness around the lack of visibility and opportunity for those who are marginalized due to other reasons, for example, disabled scientists (Brock 2021; Hiscock and Leigh 2021; Sarju 2021; Vasquez 2020). However, increased awareness is not enough: there is still a need for effective action and change.

Indeed, despite over fifty years of attention to gender imbalance, the elephant in the room (or the laboratory) is that women are still a marginalized group in science (Caltagirone et al. 2021b). What is striking in the literature is a distinct lack of narratives from women in STEM, with only a few notable exceptions, such as those from Ellen Daniell (2006), Rita Colwell (Colwell and Bertsch McGrayne 2020), Mary-Ann Mason (Mason and Ekman 2007) and Sue Rosser (2004, 2012). There is, however, work published on women in STEM, for example their history (Fara 2018), discussing their career paths (Thege et al. 2014) and reflections on this as told to others (Gornick 2009). Work of this kind, which reports on women rather than having them share their own stories often includes a critical commentary. This critical commentary can manifest in an emphasis on appearance, judgement on choices and a superficiality in responses, presumably due to a lack of specificity in the questions or understanding of the context of working within science.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: gender; science; chemistry; women; barriers
Subjects: L Education
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > Chemistry and Forensics
Divisions > Directorate of Education > Centre for the Study of Higher Education
Depositing User: Jennifer Leigh
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2022 13:29 UTC
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2022 14:45 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Leigh, Jennifer S:
Hiscock, Jennifer R.:
McConnell, Anna J.:
Caltagirone, Claudia:
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