Male-dominated leadership in the chemical field makes career progression more difficult for women.
In today’s globally interconnected, technologically advanced society, science (and Chemistry - as a sub-discipline) is fundamental to our daily life.
Increasing the number of people involved in the fields of science and technology, especially women and girls - who represent half of the world’s population – is a fundamental requirement for the achievement of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which relies on innovation and equality as preconditions. The UN considers gender equality as a global priority and the “necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.”
While women continue to play an increasingly important role in the chemical sciences, they are still underrepresented in other important chemical safety and security functions.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), in close cooperation with international partners, stakeholders and practitioners, recognized the asymmetric portrayal of women and men in chemical safety and security; both in global literature and policy debates. To address this gap, amplify women’s voices and promote opportunities to increase their engagement in this field, OPCW and UNICRI, with the generous funding of the European Commission, developed the Compendium on “Engagement and Advancement of Women in Chemical Safety and Security”.
The Compendium aims to provide policymakers and practitioners in the field of chemistry with guidance to promote gender inclusivity in the chemical safety and security sector through the identification of best practices in recruiting, training and promoting gender-inclusive careers.
To analyse the accessibility of chemical safety and security careers for women, UNICRI carried out quantitative and qualitative research. This started with a global call for Women in Chemistry (WIC) to develop an expert network in which women in chemical safety and security, could share their expertise. Over 150 women from 60 countries have joined the network and were the primary contributors of this research by sharing their knowledge, experiences, recommendations and best practices.
The findings of the research led to the identification of five aspects actions towards achieving greater gender parity in the field of chemical safety and security:
- Gathering gender-disaggregated data on accessing education and careers in chemical safety and security at the national level to inform gender-specific policies that address barriers for both genders.
- Conducting broader cross-country research and analysis of women in the chemical safety and security sector to address gaps in gender-inclusive policies and opportunities.
- Developing and implementing national gender mainstreaming strategies and action plans to ensure a more efficient allocation of talents and resources while ensuring that both men and women can advance chemical safety and security.
- Providing capability building programmes on “gender mainstreaming in chemical safety and security” to practitioners in the field.
- Empowering communities through awareness creation about the risks associated with the exposure to chemicals for both genders, and the importance of the inclusion of women in decision-making roles and in the development of policies to manage the complexities of chemical risks for both genders.
The Compendium also includes a unique set of best practices and recommendations from women working in Chemistry aiming at supporting gender-inclusive policies that empower women and promote gender equality in chemical safety and security.
The Compendium was produced by a whole team of women including the project managers, the authors, the editors, the graphic designer and the information technology and administrative staff.
UNICRI and the OPCW will continue to leverage on the newly established “Women in Chemistry” network by connecting members with career progression opportunities and by providing a regular platform for discussions and exchange of knowledge and expertise on chemical safety and security.
This Compendium is part of the Women in Chemistry Project, funded by the European Union and led by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The Compendium builds upon the achievements of the annual symposiums on Women in Chemistry implemented by OPCW since 2016. Through a series of seminars, presentations and question and answer sessions, the Symposium highlights contributions made by women in the field of peaceful chemistry; raises awareness of education and capacity development opportunities for women in peaceful chemistry; and promotes international solidarity and cooperation.
The theme addressed during the 2022 WIC symposium is “Identifying Opportunities for Gender Diversity in Chemical Safety and Security” which includes opportunities for career advancement and training, as well as the value added by gender diversity in various roles and functions related to chemical safety and security.