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Quick Thoughts on the IChemE 2016 AGM

I am just back in the door from this year's Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) AGM which was held in Edinburgh. This post is to document a couple of quick thoughts that I had as I left the conference centre.

Diversity

A significant proportion of the incoming president's speech was about diversity. I couldn't help but notice that the four people on the stage all came under the category of 'male, pale and stale'. This was made more noticeable when all the attending presidents and former presidents lined up for a photograph. It was almost like taking a photograph of a clone army.

I wasn't the only one to notice this, one of the other attendees also noticed that we are doing a lot of talking about diversity but the top table is failing to reflect our ambitions. When asked if she would stand however she did shy away from the suggestion.

I don't know what the solution is myself. But I can't help but think there is more to be done to encourage a more diverse organisation.

Membership and Activities

There was mention that the Institution is struggling due to decreased income. As a result, the membership subscriptions have gone up and will go up again.

I have to say as a member I really struggle to see where my membership fee is going. The presenters made a point about the activities that the institution should be undertaking. While I don’t remember them all, I do remember they included:

  • Maintaining a professional membership
  • Encouraging networking
  • Continuing outreach events to schools
  • Assisting with CPD

From my point of view, I see the local member groups as being one of the best ways for the institute to organise these activities however the support that the institute gives the local groups is insufficient to successfully carry out these tasks.

Local member groups get no budget from central IChemE, any local activities that are carried out by the local member groups must be self financed (either charging attendees or getting local sponsorship). Yet these local events are what most members are most likely to see.

This was something that supprised me, I would have expected that a small proportion (10% ish) of the subs would go to the local organisation but that is not the case. So none of the money paid through subscriptions is actually going to the things that the members are directly interacting with, but what about the outreach aspect?

Again, local member groups are often organising attending careers fairs on behalf of IChemE. While central IChemE will supply posters/stationery to hand out at such events, the cost of any attendance fee that the careers fairs must be made by the local member group.

I am sure that those that work for IChemE are doing an excellent job. I just feel that the organisation needs to make a better job of explaining where the subs are going. It seems on the face of it, IChemE seems to spend most of the time devising new conferences, training or books to sell to the members.

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