u Role of women in science-related fields expanding
By NELLIE WILLIAMS
A new step was taken for women in science when Darleane Hoffman, retired professor at the University of California, Berkeley, recently received the 2000 Priestly Award from the American Chemical Society.
The award, established in 1922, "recognizes distinguished service to chemistry."
The first woman to receive the award was Mary Good in 1997. Hoffman is the second woman to receive it. Good had concentrated in all three aspects of science, industrial, education and government, while Hoffman has spanned the areas education and government. Saint Mary's chemistry professor Deborah McCarthy, feels the fact that two women have received the Priestly Award is a great breakthrough for women in the field of science.
"The selection of these two highly qualified women is a confirmation that women have contributed significantly and will continue to contribute in the field of chemistry and science in general at levels equal to men," said McCarthy. "They serve as beacons for younger women to pursue careers in science without sacrificing other important aspects of their lives."
The recipient of the Priestly Award is given a gold medal which is designed to commemorate the work of Joseph Priestly, along with a bronze replica at the annual Spring Awards Banquet.
The recipient also delivers a Priestly Medal address at the time the award is given.
In her Priestly Medal address, Hoffman spoke of how far women have come in the past 50 years. A section of her speech was titled, "You've Come a Long Way, Baby," but Hoffman feels that women still have challenges to overcome in regards with societal views on raising a family and working.
Hoffman reflected on how far women have come since she graduated from college.
"Young women in high school were often discouraged from entering the physical sciences even though they had excelled in their previous mathematics and science courses," she said in her speech.
"All these things have changed dramatically, and many of these issues are no longer even items for discussion. We have, indeed, made tremendous strides."
"But … our gains in some areas are rather spotty and seem to be the exception rather than the rule. In 1983, I was the first — and so far only — woman to receive the ACS Award in Nuclear Chemistry. This was also one of the first times that one of the scientific awards of the society had gone to a woman," she continued.
However, Hoffman thinks that today woman have an equal opportunity to become scientist. Fifty percent of science and 33 percent of chemistry degrees are granted to women nationwide. Still, the percentage of women with their tenure professorships in chemistry departments remains low.
"Now that our numbers have increased, women should take the initiative in proposing qualified women for awards as well as for the coveted appointments and management positions in both university and industrial settings," Hoffman said in her speech.
"We must also enlist the aid of our male colleagues in these endeavors. In the past, they have taken the lead in proposing us; now we women must take a more active role in the process."
Presently, McCarthy is the chair of the subcommittee on "Recognition and Promotion of Women" in the Women Chemists Committee of the ACS. Her subcommittee's role is to have more women nominated and selected as award recipients for ACS administered awards.
For women pursuing science at Saint Mary's and Notre Dame, Good and Hoffman have set an example to follow, according to McCarthy.
"We can hold these women as examples of "breakage of the glass ceiling" in the recognition of women's contributions to the field. One woman recipient of the Priestly Medal might be a crack but two is a real break," she said. "We encourage our students to seek full lives including careers in chemistry in industry, government, and academics. We state that their efforts will not go unrewarded along the way as well as at the end of their careers," said McCarthy.
All News Stories for Friday, April 14, 2000