THE HAGUE, Netherlands – 29 June 2018 – Women chemists gathered in Ottawa, Canada, to discuss how to support each other professionally and project their voices more prominently in chemical science, during the Symposium on Women in Chemistry, from 25 to 26 June.
The Symposium–organised by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Government of Canada–was convened for the third time since its establishment in 2016.
The leading theme this year was “Strengthening the role of women in promoting the peaceful uses of chemistry”, which highlighted the role of women in the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, including chemical safety and security management.
Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security and Political Affairs, Global Affairs of Canada, Mr Mark Gwozdecky, in his opening remarks stated that, “Canada firmly believes that promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls, including, but by no means limited to, strengthening women in chemistry for peaceful purposes, is the single most effective action we can take to build a more peaceful, more inclusive and more prosperous world”.
Head of International Cooperation Branch of the OPCW, Ms Xiaohui Wu, emphasised that, “Women have contributed to the peaceful uses of chemistry throughout history, but they still remain underrepresented in this field”. She encouraged successful professional women to “keep the door open so that more women chemists can pass through and thrive”, be it in international organisations like the OPCW, the government, industry or academia.
The symposium featured prominent women role models and underlined both the challenges and opportunities experienced by women in chemistry.
Group discussions identified opportunities for promoting education, capacity building and career advancement. Participants shared their experiences as women working in chemical safety and security management, as seen through the lenses of academia, chemical industries, government agencies and laboratories.
The symposium exhibited the strength and depth of the contributions of women to the peaceful use of chemistry and raised awareness about the capacity-building possibilities for women.
The event was attended by more than 30 participants from the following 20 OPCW Member States: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Ghana, Guyana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Peru, Romania, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United States of America and Vietnam.
As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW oversees the global endeavour to permanently and verifiably eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997 – and with its 193 States Parties – it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.
Over 96% of all chemical weapon stockpiles declared by possessor States have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.