Although the current COVID crisis means CCCE is not taking place in Winnipeg this month, The Canadian Society for Chemistry’s Working Group on Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (WIDE) continues to build on the legacy of past conferences and develop new standards for future events.

“The CSC put EDI forward as a strategic initiative in 2016 and the plan back then was to review it in 2021,” says CSC past president and WIDE chair Kim Baines. “I’m pleased to show the membership the progress that has been made.”

The now-cancelled Winnipeg gathering was to have included a session on LGBTQ in chemistry, as well as a discussion of how to develop allies in efforts to promote EDI within scientific organizations.

“The organizers of the allies session represent a Member Resource Group that WIDE has championed to become a recognized community within CSC and CIC,” notes Baines. “The LGBTQ session also follows on from successful activities that WIDE hosted in 2018 and 2019.”

The content of these events could well make their way into one of CIC’s upcoming Webinar series, but in the meantime, Baines also points to a new policy on self-identification that has been approved by the CSC board and is awaiting implementation at the next conference.

“It will drive equity at conferences,” she explains, “where we need to have accurate data about the diversity of who is attending and presenting.” The centrepiece of the policy is a questionnaire given to CCCE registrants, allowing them to provide information about gender identity, sexual orientation, race, disabilities, and job classification. The results, which will be handled in accordance with the Canadian Privacy Act, the Access to Information Act, and other regulations surrounding the protection of personal data, are expected to help future conference organizers make these events as inclusive as possible.

“Two Self-Identification Surveys, one to be used periodically during membership renewal and one to be used annually during the Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition registration, have been drafted,” she says, referring to the draft policy statementCSC membership surveyCCCE registration survey. Baines adds that the survey should be in place for next year’s CCCE in Montreal.

Meanwhile, WIDE championed a similar emphasis on diversity and inclusion in a prominent part of the programme at last year’s CCCE in Quebec City, where a number of speakers described the social, physical, and emotional challenges they faced as part of their personal journeys in science.

“Those presentations were extremely well attended,” she says. “I don’t think there was anybody there who was not moved by what they heard and inspired to do more.”

Another initiative to emerge from CCCE2019 was a finalized version of a code of conduct for meetings, which is aimed at fostering trust, respect, open communication and ethical behaviour during such major events. These guidelines offer details about reporting mechanisms, procedure for dealing with complaints, and the types of sanctions that can be put in place.

And perhaps most satisfying for Baines has been WIDE’s successful introduction of child-care as a standard feature of CCCE, beginning with the 2018 event in Edmonton.

“Not too many organizations do that for their membership,” she points out, noting that such a service could making it possible for some individuals to attend, which could have an important impact on their careers. “Although it may only benefit a few people, the membership was behind it. We got lots of positive feedback.”