Launching our Broadening Horizons in the Chemical Sciences programme
The Royal Society of Chemistry is joined by ten leading companies in launching Broadening Horizons in the Chemical Sciences, a new three-year pilot in which participants will receive support and access to opportunities enabling them to pursue careers in chemistry.
As covered on BBC News, the first cohort of chemistry students and graduates from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds throughout the UK and Republic of Ireland have now joined the programme, aiming to create a truly inclusive and diverse chemical sciences workforce.
Talented Black chemists are leaving the profession at every stage of their career path after undergraduate studies. We want to change that. Our aim is to develop career routes into industry, innovation and entrepreneurship for Black and minority ethnic chemists, so our profession benefits from a diverse range of talents.
Delivering on the action plan from our Missing Elements research in March this year, we have teamed up with leading companies to offer access to mentoring, networking and opportunities to gain crucial industry experience and access to career paths.
Introducing industry representatives to the class of 2022
Speaking at a launch event for the programme, Royal Society Chief Executive Helen Pain welcomed almost 90 students and graduates to two days of careers workshops, facilitated and open networking, presentations from industry partners and Q&A sessions. Dr Pain said: “We work to enable the chemical sciences community to achieve its full potential to improve the lives of people around the world. But we will only be able to realise that potential if we attract people from a wide range of different backgrounds to work in the chemical sciences and to thrive in our profession.
“We are excited to be able to provide an opportunity that, by working together, will enact the change that is needed so that we can retain the talent of Black and minority ethnic people in the chemical sciences.”
Unilever’s Head of R&D Skin Care & Prestige, Jason Harcup was one of the company representatives joining participants at the launch event, saying: “Unilever believes that our workforce should fundamentally represent the demographic of the communities we operate in, all over the world. This is why we’re proud to be a founding partner of the Broadening Horizons programme, as we believe it will accelerate talent from Black, Asian and underrepresented ethnic communities into leadership positions, in a sector as important to the economy as chemical science.”
Taking action after Missing Elements research
Data from the Missing Elements report showed that 0% of chemistry professors in the UK are Black – though as far as we are aware Professor Robert Mokaya is the single one, a fact that makes no impact on the percentages. Speaking at the Broadening Horizons launch event, Professor Mokaya said: “Each of you has already demonstrated the qualities you need to succeed – the dedication, the passion and the talent for chemistry.
“Our aim is to support you to identify and pursue your own path into the right chemical sciences career for you. Today is the first step along that path.
"I want you to remember that you're the best of your generation, and don't let anybody ever tell you you're anything other than that."
Reflections on the live launch event
Sundas Alio is a third-year chemistry student at Kingston University, London: She said: “Before coming here I had no clue where I wanted to go after my degree. I thought, if it’s going to give me opportunities to see insight of what’s available in the chemistry world, then I should really sign up and come here. So far, I’ve learnt so many things, so many different careers that I didn’t even know existed – different stages that you can be with in a company. It’s been very insightful.
“I think it’s very important. I can’t see myself working in a company where I do not see someone that’s like me – someone that’s from an ethnic minority is more likely to understand the experiences I’ve gone through and some of the doubts and insecurities I might have. So they’re able to sympathise with exactly what we’re going through and able to mentor you or coach you, and give you advice as to what your next steps could be, so I think it’s very important what the RSC is doing.”
Sabrina Maxamed is at the same stage of her degree course as Sundas, also at Kingston University. She explained: “The reason why I took chemistry was so I could be really flexible with my career and have multiple options but it’s also overwhelming at the same time. Since the RSC have given us the opportunity to come here and actually meet people from companies who actually want people from ethnic backgrounds – and also come to explain what they really do, how broad chemistry is and how you can be flexible within the company – it also says a lot and it’s really made me think.
“I feel like being here has really made me feel appreciated as well and shown me a lot more opportunities for myself and other young people from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Dame Emma Walmsley, CEO of GSK adds: “We're delighted to be a founding partner of the Broadening Horizons programme. It's so important we support Black and minority ethnic students to further their studies in chemical sciences. Diversity makes us stronger and this is absolutely in line with GSK's commitment to develop diverse talent and build an inclusive culture that reflects the communities we serve.”
Continuous improvement and engagement
It is only by working together and learning from each other that Broadening Horizons is possible. Participants will benefit from a tailored industry-focused mentoring programme, RSC membership (and everything that comes with it, including crucial ongoing careers support), site visits, and the opportunity for paid industry placements. This continuous engagement approach will also build on the first cohort of students and graduates offering their insight to the RSC and to the leading companies who are generously providing their support and guidance. In future years, those who have gone through the programme will themselves serve as role models, both for each other and the incoming participants – further helping in our aim to retain talented Black and minority ethnic early-career chemists.
Find out more and register your interest
Broadening Horizons in the Chemical Sciences 2023-2024 cohort
The 2023-2024 cohort will open for applications in 2023. To register your interest and be notified with more information including when applications open, please complete and submit this form.