Gender & Sustainable Chemistry

Gender & Sustainable Chemistry

Women in Sustainable Chemistry 

Taking gender aspects into account in chemicals management is important as gender equality will not be achieved if inequalities remain. Driving Sustainable Chemistry forward in all regions of the world is our key mission in order to achieve the SDGs, including SDG 5 on gender equality.

an icon showing a stylised blending of the symbols for male, female and gender-neutral

Social and biological aspects

Gender inequalities are omnipresent in our societies, and their complex multidimensionality also permeates the world of chemistry, e.g. in occupational health and safety, academic career paths and consumption choices.

Women’s and men’s bodies are affected differently by certain chemicals, as exposure, risk, and impacts can be different between the sexes. In addition, gender as a social category is linked to gender-specific norms of behaviour, roles in society, and the development of gender identities, which influence people’s behaviour, including their impact on the environment and their access to and power over resources. Avoidable negative effects of chemicals on human health and the environment are the result.

Another relevant gender dimension in chemistry is that by different social roles (e.g. due to the gendered division of labor) consumption patterns and exposition to different chemical products in the daily lives of all genders differ. Differences include the kinds of chemical substances encountered including the level or frequency of such exposures. Women for example are longer exposed to indoor pollution, and have an increase usage of daily consumer products (e.g. cleaning products, cosmetics). Whereas men tend to have a higher risk of being more directly affected, e.g. in the event of occupational accidents involving hazardous chemical. In many countries women and children (especially girls) are the most vulnerable and often poorly protected groups, at work and in daily life.

Challenges ahead

Up to today, gender-related research including gender-disaggregated data is not the norm many disciplines, including chemistry. The proportion of women in chemical science and industry is still small, although the proportion of women studying chemistry is continuously rising. Women are an underrepresented group in chemical companies - particularly in management positions and as chemical related entrepreneurs. Another challenge is that gender issues are rarely part of curricula in general but also in natural science such as chemistry studies or medicine. This lack of awareness can have negative or even health threating impacts, if not tackled in a timely manner.


As many aspects still lack awareness and public attention, we support the strategy of the United Nations that foresee gender mainstreaming and the empowerment of women and girls, also in the world of chemistry.

Gender Mainstreaming and the ISC3 initiative

Gender mainstreaming is the internationally agreed strategy for implementing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5: Gender equality. Gender mainstreaming is a cross-cutting task for the whole of society, and hence reflected in several other SDGs in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

At the ISC3 we aim to unpack root causes of unsustainable behavior and to pay attention to the needs of all genders.

  • The ISC3 initiative "Gender and Sustainable Chemistry" aims to discuss the challenges and barriers woman are facing in this field by our interview series.
  • In 2022 we supported the Project “GenChemRoadMap” of the MSP Institute where we supported research of gender dimensions in the building sector.
  • The ISC3 raises awareness on the importance of integrating gender into international chemicals management (e.g. in the SAICM Process)
  • The ISC3 provides regular information sessions or input for talks for a range of organisations (e.g. Federal Foreign Office Germany, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 2022)

Webinar: 45min for gender - Webinar 4: Gender and Green and Sustainable Chemistry

Empowering women and girls

Specifically in chemicals management, women and girls belong to the underrepresented group. Women’s concerns, capacities, and capacity gaps, as well as proposals are often not present in project design and implementation activities.

At the ISC3 we want to make women’s experiences, expertise, and perspectives more visible. We aim to eliminate structural barriers and mobilise funding for women’s businesses and start-ups with a special focus of Sustainable Chemistry innovations. Check out the following activities for additional information

  • Blog article Gender and Sustainable Chemistry: “How women can benefit from sustainable chemistry …and sustainable chemistry from them” published in the Blog Series “Together for a gender-just healthy planet” by the MSP-Institute
  • Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF), an international non-governmental organization is on the ISC3 advisory board and consults with regards to gender issues
  • With our youth engagement activities, we put a special focus on empowering young women scientists (e.g. mutual research projects, events and exchange formats).