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Lessons Learned: Stories from Women Leaders in STEM


"Lessons Learned brings us the stories of thirty-one brilliant women in STEM who overcame the odds to push science forward while paving the way for the women yet to come. Uplifting, informative, and important."
Bonnie Garmus, author of Lessons in Chemistry

Women in this country have made great strides in terms of education. In fact, their educational attainment has outpaced men’s. However, the story is different when it comes to STEM – the field that encompasses science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

While women make up 48% of the workforce, when it comes to the so-called STEM fields, women hold only about 29% of positions in these specialties, with the majority in the biological and life sciences.

There is no evidence that girls and women are not interested in STEM fields. However, research does suggest that cultural attitudes, including implicit and explicit biases, discourage women from entering computer science, engineering, mathematics, and physics in particular.
One of the ways to increase that participation is to have role models who will inspire young women to consider STEM careers.

Lessons Learned: Stories From Women Leaders in STEM, published by the American Association for Physician Leadership and edited by Deborah M. Shlian, MD, MBA, addresses the lack of women in STEM careers through the first-person accounts of notable women who have excelled in a range of STEM-related leadership roles.

“Role models matter,” says Sheryl Sandberg, founder of and former COO of Meta (Facebook). “In Lessons Learned, Deborah Shlian introduces us to more than 30 extraordinary women who've pushed past gender bias to expand perceptions of what it means to lead in STEM. This book will inspire so many other women and girls to reach for their goals.”

The women in this book are leaders in many different STEM disciplines and in many different sectors, including academia, industry, and government institutions like the FDA and NIH. They are intentionally a diverse group not only by areas of STEM, but also by age (some are at or near the end of their careers, some are mid-career, and some are just beginning), by geography (from East, to Midwest, to West), and by ethnicity (Native American, Latina, Hispanic, African American, Asian, and Caucasian). Each contributor has shared her personal career journey – including the barriers and challenges faced along the way.

The hope is that young readers (especially girls) will find these stories so inspiring that they will consider a STEM career, and those already enrolled in STEM PhD programs will aim to become leaders within their field.

The book’s contributors represent a who’s who of women in STEM:

  • Evangelyn C. Alocilja, PhD
    Professor, Department of Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering, Michigan State University
    Founder, Global Alliance for Rapid Diagnostics
    Member, National Academy of Inventors

  • Cecilia Aragon, PhD
    Professor of Human-Centered Data Science
    University of Washington

  • Gilda A. Barabino, PhD
    President and Professor of Biomedical & Chemical Engineering
    Olin College of Engineering

  • Lisa D. Chong, PhD
    Editor, Science Journals

  • Daphney R. Chery, PhD
    STEM Advocate, Speaker, Innovation Lead at Northrop Grumman

  • Rita R. Colwell, PhD, DSc
    Distinguished University Professor
    University of Maryland College Park and
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

  • The Honorable France A. Cordova, PhD
    President, Science Philanthropy Alliance
    14th Director, National Science Foundation
    External Faculty, Santa Fe Institute

  • Catie Cuan
    PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering
    Stanford University
    Roboticist, artist, choreographer

  • Margaret Dayhoff-Brannigan, PhD
    Regulatory Project Manager and Primary Reviewer
    Office of Vaccines Research & Review
    Food & Drug Administration

  • Claire M. Fraser, PhD
    Dean E. Albert Reese Endowed Professor, Department of Medicine
    Director, Institute for Genome Sciences
    University of Maryland School of Medicine

  • Olivia L. George, PhD
    Associate Professor, Biology
    University of Hawaii-West O’ahu
    Mathematics, Natural & Health Sciences Division

  • Korie Grayson, PhD
    Chemist, Biomedical Engineer, STEM Diversity Advocate
    AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow

  • Malika Grayson, PhD
    Speaker and Founder, STEMinist Empowered LLC
    Program Manager, Northrop Grumman

  • Judith Greenberg, PhD
    Former Deputy Director, National Institute of General Medical Sciences
    National Institutes of Health

  • Ronna Hertzano, MD, PhD
    Senior Investigator and Chief of Neurotology Branch
    National Institutes for Deafness and other Communications Disorders
    National Institutes of Health
    Professor, Department of Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery
    Affiliate member, Institute for Genome Sciences
    University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore

  • Aishwarya Iyer
    MD/PhD Student (PhD candidate in Biochemistry)
    Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)
    University of Maryland School of Medicine

  • Maria Klawe, PhD
    President, Harvey Mudd College
    Incoming President, Math for America

  • Kristin E. Lauter, PhD
    Director of Research Science,
    North American Labs for Meta AI Research

  • Cathleen (Cat) Lutz, PhD, MBA
    Vice President, Rare Disease Transitional Center at The Jackson Laboratory

  • Marcia McNutt, PhD
    President, National Academy of Sciences

  • Estelle Russek-Cohen, PhD
    Former Director, Division of Biostatistics
    Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research
    Food & Drug Administration

  • Deborah M. Shlian, MD, MBA
    Former CEO, Shlian & Associates, Inc. (executive/physician search and medical management consulting)
    Author of fiction ( and nonfiction

  • Ida Sim, MD, PhD
    Professor of Medicine & Computational Precision Health
    University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

  • Barbara Simons, PhD
    Retired, IBM Research
    Former President, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
    Board Chair, Verified Voting

  • Tatiana Toro, PhD
    Professor, Department of Mathematics, University of Washington
    Director, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MRSI)
    Simons Lauter Mathematical Sciences Institute (SLMath)

  • Lydia Villa-Komaroff, PhD
    Founder & President, Intersections Consulting: Science, Business, Diversity

  • Valda Vinson, PhD
    Executive Editor, Science Journals

  • Maggie Werner-Washburne, PhD
    Regents Professor Emerita, University of New Mexico
    Founder, STEM Boomerang
    career portal:

  • Telle Whitney, PhD
    Consultant and Speaker
    Co-Founder, Grace Hopper Celebration
    Former CEO, Anita Borg Institute 

  • Amie Wilkinson, PhD
    Professor of Mathematics, University of Chicago

  • Rachel Willand-Charnley, PhD
    Assistant Professor, South Dakota State University
    Department Chemistry & Biochemistry

  • Jiwon Yang, PhD, MBA
    Principal Scientist, The Jackson Laboratory (JAX)

About Author(s)
Table of Contents

Editor: Deborah M. Shlian, MD, MBA, is a board-certified family practitioner with more than three decades of clinical and management experience. Dr. Shlian has been able to balance work-life with writing, producing several nonfiction articles, chapters, and books on medical management issues. She also writes fiction. All her works of fiction have won literary awards, including the Florida Book Award's Gold Medal.

For over 45 years.

The American Association for Physician Leadership has helped physicians develop their leadership skills through education, career development, thought leadership and community building.

The American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) changed its name from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2014. We may have changed our name, but we are the same organization that has been serving physician leaders since 1975.


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