The Catalyst Series: Women in Chemistry presents individual films about Nancy Chang, Uma Chowdhry, Mildred Cohn, Mary L. Good, Kathryn Hach-Darrow, Paula Hammond, Stephanie Kwolek, and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.
The featured women work in a variety of chemical careers, ranging from entrepreneurs to policy makers to research chemists, and come from different generations, countries, and racial and ethnic backgrounds. They all have made significant contributions to the chemical sciences.
Women have contributed to the field of chemistry since the age of alchemy. But for many centuries they did so largely unseen and unheard, thanks to the male-dominated nature of the profession and widespread cultural prejudices. Throughout the 19th and much of the 20th century the few women who pursued professional careers in chemistry often faced intense discrimination and were allowed only ancillary roles in the laboratory.
Even today, as women are gaining prominence in chemical fields, the legacy of the past persists. Women constitute only 16% of the tenured faculty in chemistry departments at U.S. colleges and universities. They also tend to be overlooked by award committees. Only four women have received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and only two have received the American Chemical Society Joseph Priestley Medal.
While today the number of women in the sciences is on the rise, more work needs to be done to achieve parity. This series of short films and accompanying web resources offers a glimpse into the wide array of professions available in chemistry and related sciences and encourages viewers to consider studying chemistry as a way to positively impact the great environmental, medical, and technological challenges of our times.
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation provided lead support for The Catalyst Series: Women in Chemistry. Mary Kenley Gall provided generous support for Women in Chemistry: Stories from Life and the Laboratory, an hour-long television segment based on the series. Important support for the Women in Chemistry web components, including eight individual films about the featured women and the companion audio series Stories from the Field, was provided by Ashland, the Rathmann Family Foundation, Nancy Chang, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.