of color, as well as low expectations, also present challenges for career advancement for women of color. Although it is not expected that these barriers will fade away in the near future, many can be overcome through effective mentoring.
A lack of a cohesive network among women of color in the sciences is a major obstacle for career advancement. Although it is clear that people from a variety of backgrounds can offer valuable relationships, women of color at large research institutions are often in environments with few minority peers, while faculty at smaller institutions often have few colleagues who can serve as role models and mentors. Professional societies are uniquely positioned to serve women of color by fostering career advancement through mentoring resources, leadership experiences, and networking opportunities. The ASBMB annual meeting serves as a fertile intellectual environment for all scientists making specific efforts to nurture the scientific growth of women, particularly women of color. The society has a standing policy that requires at least 33 percent female or minority representation among lecturers in the many theme-based scientific programs at the annual meeting. This policy is enforced at an annual meeting of program organizers, wherein each platform is thoroughly vetted by a committee to ensure diversity. Moreover, all members of the annual meeting program-planning committee are actively encouraged to identify potential minority scientists from the society’s database of minority scientists. These policies have inarguably increased the visibility of minorities and women at the annual meeting, although the representation of women of color remains limited.
The annual ASBMB meeting is also an ideal place to become apprised of the most current advances within and outside of a scientist’s discipline and to interact with professionals from industry, government, and academics. One such opportunity offered by the ASBMB is the women’s networking reception that often features a renowned female scientist who leads discussions related to the unique challenges faced by women in the sciences. These interactions are particularly critical for early career scientists. However, the participation of women may be limited by childcare needs. The ASBMB meeting offers affordable, on-site childcare during the annual meeting to meet this need and has previously offered travel subsidies to off-set the additional cost of travel in these cases. The society also understands that sustained awareness of these issues requires adequate representation of women of color in the society’s leadership. In preparing this document, the society agrees that there has been adequate representation of women with four of the past five society presidents being women. A more challenging goal will be adequate representation of women of color in the society’s top leadership posts.
Although all women in academia are challenged with maintaining a balance between career and family, women of color are acutely faced with additional demands, making the advancement up the academic ladder even more arduous. These challenges stem from a diverse array of factors, including cultural differences related to the role of females as the primary caretaker and excessive institutional responsibilities. For example, not only are minority females expected to serve on institutional committees, but also to lead and/or actively champion diversity initiatives. Collectively these challenges can impair advancement towards promotion and tenure. To address this issue, the ASBMB MAC recommends the following: 1) Supplements to support maternity-related absence and 2) Formal mentoring programs to facilitate academic advancement.
To facilitate increased retention of women of color in academia and ensure their professional success, supplemental funding is needed to support postdoctoral scientists who are