IP Cases & Articles

Missing elements – racial and ethnic inequalities in the chemical sciences

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) recently published a report which provides undisputed evidence that racial and ethnic inequalities are pervasive in the chemical sciences community. The data and lived experiences detailed in the report paint a stark picture of how hard this is to challenge and serve to illustrate the way in which exclusion and marginalisation are to a certain extent normalised for many black chemists and those from minoritised ethnic backgrounds.

The number of black chemists drops off at an alarming rate after undergraduate level, falling from 4.9% to 1.4% at postgraduate level. Moreover, the number of chemistry professors from minoritised ethnic groups is so low that it is statistically rounded to zero, adding insult to injury. The picture is just as bleak across all subjects at senior levels in academia, with only 0.8% of UK professors identifying as Black, 7.5% identifying as Asian, and 88.5% White. The lack of suitable role models is undoubtedly an important contributory factor. Although there is limited data, evidence suggests that the underrepresentation of black and minoritised ethnic groups is also prevalent in the wider chemical industry.

One area of particular concern is the apparent barrier to research funding, with Principal Investigators from minoritised ethnic backgrounds being significantly less likely to win funding bids compared to their White peers (7.5% gap), and with those that do succeed being awarded on average 10% less funding.

The drop-off in Black and other minoritised ethnic groups observed in academia after graduate level is also mirrored in the IP profession, although the data is limited. A recent report from the Intellectual Property Owners’ Association on “Diversity in the European Innovation Industry and IP Profession” is discussed in a separate article by D Young & Co Partner Jennifer O’Farrell.

Whilst statistics provide an important tool in identifying these disparities and benchmarking future progress, what really matters is the practical steps that can be taken by the IP profession to try address these concerns.

The RSC has implemented a five point action plan to try and dismantle barriers for people from Black and minoritised ethnic backgrounds in the chemical sciences. Part of this plan will involve an increased emphasis on partnering with chemical industry employers to strengthen career support, opportunities and progression.

D Young & Co, in conjunction with IP inclusive, is actively involved in a number of different mentoring schemes to encourage greater diversity in the IP profession. In addition, we are working closely with various universities to ensure that STEM graduates across the board see the IP profession as a viable and attractive career option.

Zöe Clyde-Watson (Partner, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion officer).

Royal Society of Chemistry report: "Missing Elements - Racial and ethnic inequalities in the chemical science"s

Download the (PDF) report from the RSC website.

Download report