problem may be one of the main difficulties in providing assistance. Some of the solutions offered by respondents included providing more encouragement for young women of color and women in general in early education (K-12) and college to promote career awareness and opportunities. Other respondents suggested that more mentoring programs be developed to help young women as they travel through the different levels of education, including programs to help women write successful grant proposals and also programs that would allow women with families to take time off without fear of reprisal to have and raise children. Some respondents said that the problem with women of color advancing in academia was not isolated to just women of color, but all women have to deal with cultural and institutional biases. ASM was also complimented on the fact that the organization has had women in high profile leadership roles. These examples of successful women in science should be highlighted, either through award programs or publicizing in newsletters. It seems that the overall theme of responses was that while maybe a clear cut solution to addressing the problem is not known, “continual drum beating” about the problem is critical to ensure that the discussion is on-going to find solutions.
As with other professional organizations and government initiatives, ASM has not focused on programs to specifically support the career advancement of URM women scientists and microbiologists. Their needs have been traditionally addressed within the programs for URM and for women. It is clear that these programs have not been effective, though some strides have been made within URM scientists’ programs. Interestingly enough, in 1976, Malcom et al. at the AAAS published “The Double Bind: The Price of Being a Minority Woman Scientist,”30 an influential document addressing the low participation of URM women in the sciences; many of its findings and recommendations were unique to URM women microbiologists and those pursuing this career path. A follow-up symposium, 35 years later in 2011, “Unraveling the Double Bind: Women of Color in STEM”31 revisited this topic. Data presented revealed that while URM made up 0.6 percent of earned doctorates in 1975, by 2008, this number had increased to 6 percent. However, the participation of URM in productive careers as compared to white women and men was still dismal. One important causative factor was the failure in thesis publications, which is indicative of a total failure of proper mentoring along the training and career pathway and limits career advancement. Again, though this covers the entire STEM field, anecdotal information suggests that this is a barrier to full participation of URM women in the microbiological sciences as well.
In summary, ASM clearly has provided much administrative and supportive attention to increasing the numbers and full participation of URM women microbiologists. The many training programs appear to have been successful in increasing numbers, but full participation in the ASM’s activities and career advancements have not been as successful when compared to majority men and women. While many of the barriers that confront URM women are shared by all women, it is apparent that URM women do not receive similar assistance to include supportive, strong, and meaningful mentoring as those enjoyed by men and a significant cohort of women. Interestingly, the recent survey, though limited in responses, revealed that URM women are generally satisfied in their careers and are generally satisfied with career support provided by ASM. Lacking in this survey was a query to address participation in ASM leadership activities. However, the survey did provide suggestions for ASM to add to its support