March is Women’s History Month

As many of you know, I have spent the past few years working on projects highlighting women leaders in science – in 2022 Lessons Learned: Stories from Women Physician Leaders was published.

The book profiles 33 amazing women doctors including Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha who blew the whistle on the Flint, Michigan water scandal, Dr. Laura Esserman who is a breast cancer surgeon championing a more personalized approach to the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer and Dr. Kathleen Neuzil who leads the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine where among other accomplishments she helped to develop the Covid vaccine. 
In 2023 I completed a second book titled 
Lessons Learned: Stories from Women Leaders in STEM. In it, 31 PhDs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics share their personal stories – the obstacles faced and their successes – how they beat the odds to become leaders in their disciplines and the lessons they learned along the way. 

In writing this book I was frankly a little surprised that so many women said their careers had been improbable. Several took a few detours before finding their passion and more than a few encountered stereotypes that discourage young girls from developing interests and skills in math and science- even in 2024. While each of the women profiled are unique, they all shared several qualities they felt were critical to their success including resilience, patience and perseverance. They all understand that scientific research is a marathon, not a sprint and that failure is a critical component of the learning process. All said that mentors and role models as well as a supportive life partner were critical to their success in both their professional and personal lives.

That said, let me highlight just a few of the amazing women:

Cecilia Aragon. At 5 foot 2, Cecilia is not only a celebrated computer scientist but also a champion aerobatic pilot. You’ll have to read how she overcame her fear of elevators!

Rita Colwell: Holding degrees in bacteriology snd genetics, Rita studies infectious disease and is known world wide for her cholera research. First female Director of the National Science Foundation, current President of the Rosalind Franklin Society, professor in the Institute of Advanced Computer Sciences at the University of Maryland, Rita’s personal story is filled with wonderful advice for anyone interested in science. Like Cecilia, Rita had a hobby- hers was boat racing.

Gilda Barabino is President of Olin College of Engineering as well as  President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (the world’s largest interdisciplinary scientific society). In these leadership roles, Gilda is recognized as a thought leader and highly sought after speaker both nationally and internationally. This year she was invited to the White House for the signing of the CHIPS ACT which will make the US independent of foreign chip makers.

Marcia McNutt: Geophysicist.  President of the National Aacdemy of Science is just one of her many leadership roles. As director of the US Geological Survey she responded to a number od disasters including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Besides her impressive scientific skills, Marcia is a barrel racer!

The women in this book are intentionally a diverse group – not only in terms of their particular areas of STEM, but also in their ethnicity, where they are in their career journeys, where they live and work.

I love this quote from American civil rights activist, Marion Wright Edelman: “you can’t be what you can’t see”. Every one of these women are visible role models and mentors. I know they will serve as inspirations to everyone including today’s youngsters who may still be hearing the myth that “girls aren’t good in math or science”.

Over 12 reviewers have raved about the book including Sheryl Sandberg of LeanIn fame, Carolyn Bertozzi, PhD who won the Nobel prize in chemistry, and Bonnie Garmus, author of the bestselling novel Lessons in Chemistry.

This year Lessons Learned: Stories from Women Leaders in STEM won the President Award from the Florida Authors and Publisher Association.

SO TO HONOR THE WOMEN IN STEMM (medicine, science, technology, engineering and math), buy a copy of both books. They make great gifts for your children and grandchildren.  All royalties are going to programs supporting young girls (and boys) interested in careers in these fields. The hope is that the stories in both books will inspire young people to not only become STEMM scientists but leaders as well.