Companies join forces to fight racism in chemistry

Companies join forces to fight racism in chemistry

Grace Odunlade

Grace Odunlade hopes the arrangement will allow her to have the network in the industry that many of her fellow white students seem to already have.

Leading companies have launched a scheme to help black and immigrant students get jobs as chemistry researcher.

The initiative follows a study that showed that racism was ubiquitous in chemistry research.

There is only one black chemistry professor in the UK and black people in the field are less well paid and less likely to be promoted.

The initiative, called Broadening Horizons, is led by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Its chief executive, Dr Helen Pain, said the goal was to make a “step change” to get black people in particular to pursue careers in science.

The RSC’s survey, published in March, found that racism was ubiquitous in the chemical sciences and talented students and budding researchers were leaving the profession at every stage of their careers.

Victor Ifeanyic

Victor Ifeanyi has applied for 15 jobs in the chemical science industry – none have been successful

The problem of racism is not exclusive to chemistry. A BBC investigation last year revealed the magnitude of the problem across all sciences.

The RSC is one of several scientific bodies and universities that are trying to solve the problem.

One study found that in chemistry, ethnic minority researchers are less likely to receive grants or promotions and are paid significantly less.

In 2019/20, the average grant for a minority chemical science researcher was £320,000, compared to £355,000 for white colleagues.

The RSC research went beyond the situation in the chemical sciences.

It also highlighted that 37% of FTSE 100 companies have no ethnic minority representation on their boards, despite a target set by an independent review, including in 2016, to have one director with an ethnic minority background on each board by 2021. to have.

The report “shocked” a number of chemical-led industries into action, according to Dr. Pain.

“It pushed them to bring the community of chemical scientists together and act in ways that can really make a difference.”

Several companies have partnered with the RSC to provide black and immigrant students studying in the UK and the Republic of Ireland with mentorship, industry experience and the opportunity to undertake a three-year internship.

Among them are RSSL, Syngenta, Unilever, GSK, Nanopore Technologies, AM Technologies, Astra Zeneca, Johnson Matthey and BASF.

Prof Robert Mokaya

Robert Mokaya is the only black chemistry professor in the UK. His applications for research grants to the country’s main funding agency have all been rejected.

Grace Odunlade is one of 94 students about to begin the scheme. She is a third year student studying medicinal chemistry at Trinity College, Dublin. Her parents came to Dublin from Nigeria when she was two. She believes the arrangement will be of great help in getting a career in chemistry.

“I’m a first-generation immigrant child, so my parents didn’t have the network that many people in my education have.

“Over the summer, some people talked about internships that they got and how they got them through family and friends. I can’t say the same because of my background.”

Victor Ezeajuchu came from Nigeria to study a masters degree in pharmaceutical sciences at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, applying for jobs in the UK.

So far, he has applied to 15 jobs. None have been successful.

“Several organizations say they are for diversity and equal opportunities, but that’s just talk. None of them really do that,” he told BBC News.

But he thinks the Horizons Broadening scheme will make a difference to his job prospects.

“It brings me closer to the organizations I would love to work with, such as GSK and AstraZeneca.

“I’m going to see the board of directors and key brains in these companies one-on-one, and I’ll be able to interact with them and express myself.”

Black scientists are least likely to be professors.

Black scientists are least likely to be professors.

Ijeoma Uchegbu, co-founder of the pharmaceutical company Nanomerics and professor at UCL, was one of the driving forces behind the initiative.

She believes that increasing diversity in chemistry is not only fair, but also makes economic sense.

“It’s not so much about social justice. It’s about getting the best quality for your company. You can’t know your customer if the staff in the company is of one type.

“There is a lot of evidence to show that if you have leadership among ethnic minorities, you are more profitable.”

That’s a view backed by Unilever’s Global Vice President for skincare research, Jason Harcup.

“We’re seeing a disproportionate loss of talent, especially in leadership positions, and that’s a loss to the economy,” he said.

“The springboard to those positions is experience, and that’s what the Broadening Horizons program offers.”

Follow Pallab on Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.