Successful women in chemistry and Success strategies for women in science: a portable mentor

Successful women in chemistry 

Amber Hinkle and Jody Kocsis (eds) (ACS Symposium series 907) 

Washington DC, US: American Chemical Society | 2005 | 202 pp | ?45.00 (HB) | ISBN 0841239126  

Reviewed by Helen Lunn

The title of this book is slightly misleading in that it is not about women chemists but about women who have been successful in the whole sphere of chemistry in corporate America. Indeed, one woman interviewed in this book is a human resources manager who works for the pharmaceutical giant Bayer. 

The first chapter provides a statistical overview of women entering the chemical professions and involves some soul searching and probing questions such as why is it that women who have entered the science and engineering fields in increasing numbers since the 1970s are missing from middle and senior management? And if competition exists for science and engineering trained professionals, why do we still see salary gaps and employment concerns? This book asks more questions than it answers. 

The rest of the book comprises interviews with the successful women written in a readable format. Each has their own chapter, providing an insight into their career choices, growth and ambition.  

All of the women seem to state the importance of mentoring in their careers, although we do not know if this was in response to a particular question or if the subject arose spontaneously in all of their conversations. 

Many women will enjoy the optimistic tone of the book and we certainly need more books and studies like this one if we are to encourage more women to do science. 

Success strategies for women in science: a portable mentor 

Peggy A Pritchard (ed)  

Burlington, MA, US: Academic Press | 2006 | 316pp | ?21.99 (HB) ISBN 0120884119 

Reviewed by Helen Lunn 

This book is apparently aimed at women embarking on a career in science or in their final years of training for such a role. The prologue is quite inspiring and so are the women profiled, but the book is biased towards academic careers with much of the material concentrated on gaining tenure with a focus on North America. 

The book is divided into 12 sections: career management; continuing professional development; training and working abroad; climbing the ladder; mentoring; networking; mental toughness; personal style; communicating science; time stress; balancing professional and personal life; and transitions. Each section could have made a book in its own right.  

While there is some good advice, for example on networking, this is intermingled with some wacky examples such as painting watercolours in meetings. 

There are also some 20 pages on personal style, which involve regular checking of hair and makeup throughout the day and a warning against wearing jeans, even if they are allowed by the dress code, for fear of looking ’too sexy’. The book states that ’whilst men enjoy looking at women who dress sexily, they don’t promote them’. 

In North America, it is also a requirement to be thin. Then there is the work-life balance problem and a discussion on when is the best time to have a baby. 

It would appear that it’s certainly not easy being a female scientist.