Empowering Women in Chemistry: Driving Diversity and Excellence in Higher Ed STEM 

Ginelle Testa

Although women have been making significant strides over the past century, there remains a gender gap in all STEM disciplines, including chemistry. It is crucial to address these disparities to foster diversity and excellence in higher education STEM programs. 

Zippia, a career site, reports that about 40% of all chemists are women, while about 60% are men. While this statistic is better than other STEM disciplines, it’s not good enough. 

We’ll explore strategies to empower women in chemistry, encouraging their participation and ensuring their contributions are recognized and valued.

6 Ways to Empower Women in Chemistry

1. Offer Mentorship Opportunities

Providing mentorship opportunities is a highly effective strategy for empowering women in chemistry. Experienced female scientists can play a crucial role as mentors, offering guidance and inspiration to the upcoming generation of chemists. These mentors can be drawn from both academic faculty and established professionals outside of the traditional academic setting.

Research has demonstrated that having a female peer mentor can significantly enhance female participants' psychological experiences in STEM, increase their aspirations to pursue postgraduate STEM degrees, and contribute positively to their emotional well-being. 

2. Address Barriers to Entry

Another critical step in empowering women in chemistry is to identify and address the barriers that may discourage them from entering the field. These barriers can range from cultural stereotypes to lack of access to resources and opportunities. Educational institutions and STEM programs should actively work to eliminate these obstacles.

Research found that boys are more likely than girls to say that their own gender group ‘should’ be good at STEM. How can this be addressed?

Efforts can include creating outreach programs that target young girls and encourage their interest in science from an early age. Scholarships and financial aid can be tailored to support female students in pursuing degrees in chemistry. Moreover, institutions must implement policies that promote diversity and inclusion within their programs and departments.

3. Help Women Research and Publish

In 1945, when Otto Hahn was honored with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his groundbreaking discovery of nuclear fission, it revealed a stark gender bias in the recognition of scientific contributions. His long-time collaborator, physicist Lise Meitner, who played an indispensable role in the award-winning breakthrough, received no recognition.

It is essential to address this issue by providing support and opportunities for women to showcase their work. Institutions should encourage and facilitate female researchers' access to laboratories, equipment, and funding. 

4. Acknowledge the Race Factor

Empowering women in chemistry also requires addressing intersectionality, including race. National Science Foundation reported that although African American and Latinx undergraduates were just as likely as their White counterparts to enter college with the intention to major in STEM, they were much less likely to earn a degree in those majors. 

Recognizing and addressing racial disparities in STEM education and careers is essential to creating a truly inclusive classroom and lab

5. Include Women in STEM History Examples

To inspire future generations of women in chemistry, it is essential to include women's contributions in the history of STEM. Highlighting the achievements of female chemists, scientists, and researchers in educational curricula can help break down gender stereotypes.

A Microsoft study revealed that among young women who have a STEM role model, there is a 12% rise in interest in all the subjects in the field. Seeing themselves in others can inspire young women to pursue careers in chemistry and other STEM disciplines.

a graphic highlighting women who have been pioneers in the history of chemistry

6. Offer Tools that Level the Playing Field

To empower women in chemistry, providing access to tools and resources that level the playing field is essential. This includes ensuring equitable access to laboratory facilities, research funding, and cutting-edge technology. 

Labster offers students an immersive digital learning advantage through virtual labs, including in chemistry. Labster delivers a learning advantage through immersive experiences that help students from all backgrounds learn STEM skills and concepts faster., increasing both equity and access. Students who use Labster as a pre-lab assignment are 5.4 times more likely to say they plan to continue taking STEM courses.

Institutions with Organizations Supporting Women In Chemistry

Many higher education institutions have their own organizations that you can explore to get ideas for your university or college. 


As more women are encouraged and supported in pursuing education and careers in chemistry, we can anticipate increased innovation driven by a broader range of perspectives and problem-solving approaches. This diversity of thought and experience can lead to more creative solutions to complex scientific challenges, ultimately benefiting the entire scientific community and society as a whole.

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