Gender issues in chemistry are obtaining an unprecedented profile in academic and industry circles, thanks in large part to the work of women in chemistry organizations across the country. These activities have accelerated dramatically with the creation of the Canadian Women in Chemistry (CWIC) Network, which was created after a dynamic LOGIC (Leaders Overcoming Gender Inequality in Chemistry) Retreat mounted last year by the University of Toronto’s Women in Chemistry group.
“We had such a great time planning it, and it created such a community among everybody who participated that we wanted to continue working together,” recalls Anika Tarasewicz, a doctoral student in organic chemistry at U of T.
She notes that the event drew her organization’s attention to the existence of a similar group at the University of Alberta, along with the need to ensure that others on various Canadian campuses would not operate in isolation from one another. The result was CWIC, a student-led initiative dedicated to shedding light on both problems and solutions dealing with gender in universities, industry, and society as a whole.
“When we created the LOGIC Retreat, we came up with the theme “Becoming a Confident Chemist and Future Leader,” explains Tarasewicz. “We knew that there was a lack of discussion of these topics, but until we held the retreat we hadn’t fully appreciated just how profound that lack has been, especially at the graduate student level.”
She adds that women in chemistry groups have fostered ideas for female success in the chemical sciences by showcasing strong role models for students to encounter, as well as a broad spectrum of career opportunities. Participants are also encouraged to voice their concerns to administrators and others responsible for policy, which can ultimately increase the retention of women in classrooms, workplaces, and anywhere else in chemical science professions.
Tarasewicz has subsequently become the CEO of CWIC, which was also founded by University of Toronto chemistry student Bryony McAllister and University of Alberta chemistry students Meagan Oakley and Sorina Chiorean, as well as Elaheh Khozeimeh Sarbisheh, a University of Saskatchewan student who founded that campus’ first women in chemistry group after attending the 2017 LOGIC Retreat.
Although CWIC does not yet have a central office, students interested in its work or starting up their own women in chemistry chapters are invited to contact the network at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also more information at the CWIC Web site, https://cwicnetwork.com.
In addition to seeking financial support to broaden the network’s reach and scope, Tarasewicz says CWIC is starting to assemble a database of expertise within its ranks, which can serve as a reference point for effective speakers to address gender issues at conferences or other public presentations. In this way, she intends to see the momentum begun by the LOGIC Retreat become a catalyst for social change.
“It’s a good, empowering feeling when you have women in chemistry together,” she concludes.