I was recently asked to speak at the Women Chemists of Color in Industry Symposium at the Spring American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in New Orleans. This request caused me to reflect on the theme “Pathways, Progress, and Outlook on the Future, for Women of Color” and what it means to me and my career path. The goal of the ACS Department of Diversity Programs is to “advance diversity and inclusion in the chemical sciences and increase the representation of underrepresented minorities, women, younger chemists, and chemists with disabilities into the science field.” This vision speaks to me in many ways as it provides opportunities to cultivate a diverse community and environment in the chemical industry.
My pathway to chemistry was simple, I became interested in science and chemistry at an early age, thanks to Mr. Wizard and an ill-advised chemistry set I received for Christmas when I was 10 (there is still an un-explained stain on my mother’s living room carpet). My parents encouraged my curiosity and in high school enrolled me in the Minorities in Engineering Program at Case Western Reserve University. This program served as my first glimpse into what chemists and chemical engineers could do. It also solidified my interested in being a scientist.
My progression continued when I applied for and received an ACS Scholars Award for minorities in Chemical Sciences and Chemical Engineering. This program provides a scholarship, internship, and mentoring for underrepresented minorities in the Chemical Sciences and is governed by the ACS committee on Minority Affairs. This program changed my life in so many ways, by opening doors to experiences and opportunities I didn’t know existed for minorities. Through this program, I met several mentors and colleagues that helped encourage and guide me through my academic career, and onto graduate school.
The relationships and interactions I experienced through ACS members, my mentors, and others moved me to want to give back as others had given their time, energy, and guidance to me. In graduate school I became a member of Iota Sigma Pi national honorary chemistry sorority and the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE). Through these programs I began to mentor high school students, organize National Chemistry week demonstrations, and hosted the Girl Scouts of America. Giving back to others and showing young students, especially young girls, what chemistry is about and empowering them with knowledge and tools they will need to succeed, was rewarding.
At each step on my pathway I had a village of people encouraging, mentoring, and showing me the multiple options available to me in the chemical sciences. Hard work and determination were the driving forces for my achievements, but along the way I was fortunate to be involved and part of programs aimed at ensuring I had the resources and opportunities to get to the next level.
Since beginning my career at Celanese I have been able to expand my involvement in the ACS. With our new Corporate Vision and Goals, endeavors such as, Employee Growth and Improving the World continue to be at the forefront for Celanese. My continued and increased involvement in the American Chemical Society through the Committee on Minority Affairs, ACS Scholars Program, and the Women Chemist Committee has always been supported and encouraged by leadership at Celanese. Global Impact Week, National Chemistry Week, and all the other community outreach activities supported and encouraged gives us another opportunity to impact the lives and environment around us.
My outlook for the future can be summed up with a quote by Marianne Wright Edelman, “service is the rent we pay for living.” Giving back to the next generation of chemical scientists by continued involvement in program development and mentorship will ensure they have the tools to succeed just as someone ensured I did. Get involved, give back, the rewards are sweet.