Project Details Accelerating Participation and Leadership of Women in Chemistry

Project No.:
Start Date:
15 March 2015
End Date:
Division Name:
Committee on Chemistry and Industry
Division No.:


This project will establish a framework for IUPAC to explore the status of women in chemistry globally, identify and disseminate best practices for advancing and securing participation and leadership of women in chemistry, and to provide international recognition for women chemists. Creating this Task Group within IUPAC provides a strong platform for global review, communications, and recognition. While multiple studies have been published on participation rates of women in science internationally, this data has not been reviewed to determine the specific status of women in chemistry. The Task Group will survey the global landscape in more detail, provide a critical assessment of the existing data, and identify gaps in the data. Based on this, additional surveys could be chartered to explore regional and cultural differences. During the first year, the Task Group will define their vision, develop a strategy for driving to the vision, develop the critical assessment of existing information, and gain support from IUPAC leadership. Plans for implementing this strategy will then be developed.

The recognition of women in chemistry by IUPAC continues to be a cornerstone of this effort. The Task Group is organizing the 2015 Distinguished Women in Chemistry/Chemical Engineering Award to be presented at the IUPAC World Chemistry Congress, August 9-14, 2015, Busan, Korea. A Symposium recognizing the achievements of women in chemistry will follow the award presentation.


Development of Vision and Strategy:

One of the 4 objectives of the 2011 International Year of Chemistry was to celebrate the achievements of women in chemistry and honor Marie Curie. There were several main international activities on this theme. During the “Women Sharing a Chemical Moment in Time” networking event on January 18, 2011, women chemists around the world met to share a meal and their stories. (IYC2011 activity and Youtube video) They connected via Skype or other communication mechanisms to similar gatherings in other countries. The first events were held in Australia and New Zealand; as the day progressed, women in Asia, Europe, and the Americas joined in; and the conversations about women in chemistry followed the sunrise around the world. The final event was held in Hawaii, United States. On 1 March 2011, a virtual conference “The Future We Create: Women in Chemistry and Science” was held. During this one-hour broadcast, sixty leaders presented their thoughts on how to expand the leadership role of women in science (see IYC2011 activity). Celebrations at the 2011 World Chemistry Congress included the inaugural presentation of the Distinguished Women in Chemistry/Chemical Engineering awards to 23 women, a full-day award symposium featuring the awardees, and a theatrical reflection on the life of Marie Curie. (See IYC2011 activity) In addition to these international events, chemistry-related organizations around the world celebrated this theme in myriad ways.

This project will create an international Task Group that is chartered with establishing the framework to examine the status of women in chemistry, globally addressing these issues. The Task Group will meet as part of the 2015 IUPAC General Assembly on August 12 in Busan, South Korea. During this meeting, the Task Group will conduct a brainstorming session and develop a vision and strategic objectives for the group. Ultimately, the group will develop a set of recommendations to IUPAC on sustaining activities to improve the participation and leadership of women.

Assessment on the Status of Women in Chemistry (participation and leadership):

There are some data available on the status of women in some countries collected by individuals, some national governments, and some national professional organizations. However, data are not available on a global basis. Studies have been published that assess participation of women in science globally but these studies generally aggregate the data at the “Natural Sciences” level and do not provide specific information on chemistry. (e.g.: Women in Scientific Careers: Unleashing the Potential, OECD, 2006; Women in Industrial Research: A Wake-Up Call for European Industry, European Commission Directorate- General for Research; Data collected by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Some additional information comes in the forms of personal testimonies and stories from women in chemistry. While these anecdotes are illustrative, they do not present an authoritative summary of the global situation. A more thorough assessment would provide better insights of the gaps that exist and provide opportunities to identify successful programs. We will reach out to the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), which has more successfully developed within IUPAP Working Group 5, to leverage their experience with these assessments and surveys. A representative from their Women in Physics group will be invited to the meeting in Busan to provide input during the planning meeting. A representative from ICSU Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) will also be invited to provide a regional perspective on the issues.

2015 Distinguished Women in Chemistry/Chemical Engineering Award:

The awards will be presented at the 2015 IUPAC World Chemistry Congress (August 9-14, 2015, Busan, Korea). The awards will be given for accomplishments in research, education, industry, or scientific leadership. Data show that women are underrepresented as awards recipients. For instance, through the data collected by the RAISE Project (Recognition of the Achievements of Women in Science, Medecine & Engineering ; since 1980, the percent of women receiving major awards are: 13.9% National Medal of Science; 11.5% Nobel Prize in Medicine; 6.1% American Chemical Society Priestly Medal, 3.1% International Mathematical Union Fields Medal. The benefit of an international award is the increased recognition, visibility, and credibility that it brings to the women chemists within their home country and institutions.

The award criteria will be leveraged from previous years. Up to 12 awards will be presented with no more than two recipients from the same country of residence. The jury will represent diverse geographies, disciplines, and institutional alignment. The names of the awardees will be announced widely and communicated to national chemistry associations. It is expected that recipients will also announce the recognition within their own institution/country.

Award Symposium:

During a half-day symposium on Tuesday, August 11, 2015, award recipients will share their stories, describe their personal career highlights, and provide their insights on how women can best achieve success in chemistry.
Throughout the presentations that were shared at the 2011 award symposium (Chem. Int. Nov 2011), speakers described the status of women in chemistry and chemical research in their country and described some of the challenges. The speakers at the 2013 award symposium described their careers, support and challenges they faced, and shared advice and recommendations for younger scientists. Although the symposium was scheduled on the last day of the WCC, over 50 people attended this session that competed on the agenda with more scientific talks. Attendees at the previous symposium found the speakers to be inspirational role models.


Announced 1 May 2015 – Awardees of the IUPAC 2015 Distinguished Women in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering
The awardees of the IUPAC 2015 Distinguished Women in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering are as follows:
Professor Lucia Banci, University of Florence, Florence, Italy
Professor Margaret Brimble, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Professor Ewa Bulska, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Warsaw, Poland
Professor Karen Gleason, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
Professor Janet Hering, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science & Technology, Du?bendorf, Switzerland
Professor Nadia G. Kandile, Ain Shams University, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt
Professor Maki Kawai, RIKEN & The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Professor Hyunjoo Lee, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Daejeon, South Korea
Professor Carmen Najera, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain
Professor Helga Rübsamen-Schaeff, AiCuris GmbH & Co. KG, Wuppertal, Germany
Professor Roberta Sessoli, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Florence, Italy
Professor Livia Simon Sarkadi, Corvinus University of Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

The awards program, initiated as part of the 2011 International Year of Chemistry celebrations, was created to acknowledge and promote the work of women chemists/chemical engineers worldwide. These 12 Awardees have been selected based on excellence in basic or applied research, distinguished accomplishments in teaching or education, or demonstrated leadership or managerial excellence in the chemical sciences. The Awards Committee has been particularly interested in nominees with a history of leadership and/or community service during their careers. An Award ceremony will take place during the IUPAC World Chemistry Congress in Busan, Korea, on Tuesday, 11 August 2015 and coinciding with the symposium: Women in Chemistry: Gaining Momentum, and followed by a reception in honor of the recipients. See for details and access to the photo gallery!


A list of recipients of the award since its inception may be found at the IUPAC website (PDF Recipients-IUPAC-Distinguished-Women-in-Chemistry_150430)

Presentation of the Awards during the IUPAC General Assembly/Congress in Busan, Korea in August 2015.



Oct 2016 update – The Call for Nominations for the 2017 Awards is on and available at


Mar 2017 update – On March 8th and to celebrate International Women′s Day, IUPAC announced the 2017 class of Distinguished Women in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering.


Page last updated 21 March 2017