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Advice for Women and Girls Pursuing a Career in STEM

Women across Flagship Pioneering's ecosystem of companies share their advice for women pursuing a career in STEM on the occasion of International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022.

Women in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) are eager to increase their numbers. To mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Flagship asked women scientists across the Flagship ecosystem to share advice to help other women succeed in STEM. The response was overwhelming, with more than 80 women scientists participating in the campaign. Advice centered around five main themes: work hard and pioneer, find mentors and build a network, be curious, be bold, and believe in yourself.

Work hard and pioneer.


  • Svetlana Pidasheva, Ph.D., Axcella Therapeutics: “Don’t cut corners. Do whatever it takes to get to your goal. Be prepared for a very challenging environment, and when you feel like you want to give up, take a break, regroup and move on!”
  • Dalia Burzyn, PhD., Codiak Biosciences: “It is challenging, but also very rewarding to know that our contributions will increase knowledge and hopefully help people.”
  • Jing Zhu, Evelo Biosciences: “Be what you always wanted to be. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Be comfortable with trying new things. Also, don’t be shy to ask questions and reach out to others!”
  • Shannon Argueta, Evelo Biosciences “Always take advantage of an opportunity to gain practical experience, however small it may seem. There is almost always a way to benefit and grow, be it knowledge, networking, or simply exposure.”
  • Xin Sun, Radial: “Be curious, work hard, love what you do, and remember to recognize and appreciate your achievements – women often forget the last part!”
  • Jun Wang, Laronde: “It’s normal to feel uncomfortable with new things, but don’t be afraid and you will realize it’s not that bad.”
  • Hamilton Bennett, Moderna: “Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Seek out and embrace opportunities that feel more like a challenge, and whenever you can create a safe space for others to do the same.”
  • Rebecca Evans, Repertoire Immune Medicines: “Women have unique thought processes and ways of communicating that make our contributions essential to any scientific team, be it in leadership or supportive roles.”
  • Nicole Boisvert, Ring Therapeutics “If you love it, go for it! There are SO MANY possibilities in STEM; find a subject you are REALLY interested in and pursue it. Then as you enter your career, continually push gender boundaries - you will only inspire more women to follow!”
  • Ashley Maldonado, Rubius Therapeutics: “If you’re interested in science, get involved in groups and projects! Try to gain as much practical experience as you can. This will not only help you get an idea of what you like and where you see yourself, but also teach you how to think creatively to solve problems while working in teams, which are important skills!”
  • Dahlia Alkekhia, Rubius Therapeutics: “Believe in yourself, be kind to yourself, and push yourself to keep growing beyond your comfort zone. Remember to build your network because having a community that will cheer you on and that you can lean on for advice and opportunities will make all the difference.”
  • Dolly Thomas, Rubius Therapeutics: “Commit to what you love by seeking out the best experiences and people to nurture your intellectual growth. Never settle, always challenge yourself!”
  • Jennifer Mellen, Rubius Therapeutics: “Follow your interests and instincts. Keep pushing on your goals, and where you want to be in your career but take time to rest and re-assess. You might be surprised by what you find out about yourself when you slow down. If you are ever feeling discouraged, always remember why you started and get back to the root of your purpose.”
  • Dakota Voitcu, Senda Biosciences: “My advice for women pursuing careers in STEM is to go for positions you may not feel entirely qualified for. Your interest in the role and competency as a scientist can get you further than you think.”
  • Jacqueline Leuci, Senda Biosciences: “My advice to women in STEM, as a woman in STEM, is to get used to being uncomfortable. People will always be there to shut you down, but it is your job to push past that and continue growing, sharing ideas, and learning as much as you can.”
  • Janessa Mihalich, Syros Pharmaceuticals: “When you push the limits of your comfort zone, you’ll find yourself learning more and growing more. Don’t be afraid to embrace it!”
  • Rachael Ahern, Tessera Therapeutics: “Find your voice and your passion. Challenge yourself, have confidence in your ability, and lean into opportunities that push the boundaries of your knowledge. Have ambitious goals and find mentors who believe in you and push you to succeed and grow. Break down the barriers between you and your goals; face gender inequality in STEM head-on by believing that you can and will succeed.”
  • Sara Eapen, Ph.D., Valo Health: “Leverage your knowledge and experience by sharing your opinion openly and not hesitating to ask tough questions.”
  • Virginie Buggia-Prevot, Ph.D., Valo Health: “Stretch outside your comfort zone; this is where you will grow and innovate the most.”
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Find mentors and build a network.

  • Margaret Koziel, M.D., Axcella Therapeutics: “Don’t let anybody tell you what you can’t do – and find people who will help you do what you want to do.”
  • Lovisa Afzelius, Flagship Pioneering: “Surround yourself with people you get inspired by. Find your place where you can constantly challenge yourself and feel supported in doing so. Pay forward. Come join Flagship!”
  • Ayse J. Muñiz, PhD, Flagship Pioneering: “Place yourself in environments where your worth is recognized and valued, your learning is maximized, and you have the freedom to operate authentically. Unapologetically apply your focus to what matters and decouple your energy from what doesn't. Prioritize your well-being through kindness to your past, present, and future selves. In the pursuit of your ambitions, don't lose sight of gratitude, compassion, and respect for others.”
  • Jen Fortune, Flagship Pioneering: “Prioritize working with great mentors who invest in your coaching and development above all. You’ll not only grow by leaps and bounds but will enjoy every minute of it!”
  • Pip Reeder, Invaio Sciences: “Seek out mentors (men and women) who can help you grow your understanding of the field, provide advice on what to focus on and how you can improve your chances of success, and generally help you get or find opportunities to gain experience (eg, internships and CO-OPs if you’re in school, professional opportunities if you are working).”
  • Del Leistritz-Edwards, Repertoire Immune Medicines: “Try to see what opportunities are interesting to you and reach out to people in the field to ask people what advice they have for you!”
  • Julia Oswald, Ring Therapeutics: “If you are ever in doubt whether to work for someone or not - ask yourself: if I had a serious accident would he/she send a card to my partner to offer condolences, or would they just reach out to have them locate my latest hard-drive with work data?”
  • Abagail Hunter, Rubius Therapeutics: “Stay confident, embrace being the minority instead of being intimidated by it and look to other women in STEM for inspiration and support.”
  • Charmian Wu, Rubius Therapeutics: “Build a strong, reliable network to continuously grow and improve both your technical knowledge and work style.”
  • Terri Young, Seres Therapeutics: “Create a strong group of mentors, supporters, and collaborators early on. People who can contribute to your ideas, make them stronger, challenge you, and make you a better person. Science is not a solo endeavor. It’s a team sport.”
  • Amanda Levasseur, Sigilon Therapeutics: “It’s easy to become intimidated by the lack of female representation in the STEM field, but women should maintain confidence in their abilities and interests. There is plenty of space for women in these roles, and we should support and encourage the development of other females we encounter along the way.”
  • Charina Ortega, Sigilon Therapeutics: : “Find role models and mentors in STEM - whether it is a previous professor, or a new boss, or a colleague. There are role models everywhere; and they have a lot of valuable experience and great career advice in the industry. And be a role model. It is important to give back to the community so there are more women and people of color within our field in the future.”
  • Ameya Madduri, Syros Pharmaceuticals: “Find an environment that is conducive to your growth as a scientist. Not all work environments are “one size fits all” and that is ok. Acknowledge areas for improvement and take feedback graciously. When a mentor gives you meaningful feedback, know that it is because they genuinely want to see your growth and success.”
  • Shanhu Hu, Syros Pharmaceuticals: “Join an institute that actively empowers women and provides growth opportunities for women will help a lot, but the most important thing is believing in yourself, believing that you can achieve greatness, and work towards your goals.”
  • Sydney Alnemy, Syros Pharmaceuticals: “If you lift other women up along your journey, no challenge will be tall enough to stand in your way.”
  • Denisse Rotem, Tessera Therapeutics: “My advice from experience and learning from other amazing women in STEM is that girls and women should follow their passion, to pave the way for the future of the next generation, to create a community of support and celebration of achievements, to remember that feelings are just feelings and we all have them but that sometimes we must fight to be equal and that is hard and unfair but it also teaches us resilience and self-worth.”
  • Palig Mouradian, YourBio Health: “There are heroes of women in STEM whose names are not all too well known. Their legacies can be discovered though and function as inspiration. If they were able to achieve at times when society had no place for them, imagine all that you can now. Women in STEM can lift each other up in contemporary ways, but their stories can also act as goalposts.”
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Be curious.

  • Jennifer Davoren, Cellarity: “Don’t be afraid to live with uncertainty and take calculated risks. Working in STEM inherently means living and breathing at the cutting edge of whatever field you choose and literally helping to build the future.”
  • Orna Lynch, Cellarity: “Remember how lucky we are today to have every opportunity in the world ahead of us - find what interests you and pursue it wholeheartedly, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice from people who inspire and mentor you along the way.”
  • Ornella Barrandon, Cellarity: “Follow your passion and have confidence that you can bring something to the table. Seek out challenges that push you to grow and expand your skillset. Don’t be afraid to pivot and stretch yourself by trying new things, whether that be exploring new approaches within your field or switching to new fields. Be curious. I would also recommend finding mentors or role models that can support and challenge you in the journey.”
  • Marie Coffin, Ph. D., CiBO Technologies: “My advice for women pursuing a career in STEM: It's more important to ask good questions than to have all the answers. Give yourself permission to try new things and make mistakes. That's how great advances are made.”
  • Nilovna Chatterjee, Ph. D., CiBO Technologies: “Stay curious and don't hesitate to ask questions. Find a mentor who you think could help you in your early career. Most importantly, develop a mindset that propels you to learn continuously. Be an eternal STEM student at every stage in your career.”
  • Loise Francisco, Ph. D., Evelo Biosciences: “Be proactive and engineer your own career path. Stay curious, not just with your field of interest but with your career possibilities. Reach out to others and continue to ask questions.”
  • Yajie Niu, Flagship Pioneering, Invaio Sciences: “Being a woman in science is to pursue your crazy ideas, be passionate about your mission in life and embrace resilience”
  • Luisa Salter-Cid, Pioneering Medicines: “STEM careers at any stage, can be overwhelming - finding some space to breathe, think, and focus not only on operations and deliverables but also “on the big picture” is also critical.”
  • Brigid Garelik, KSQ Therapeutics: “A career in science has afforded me the opportunity to follow my passion with the freedom and flexibility to clear a path for new ideas and innovations in an area of continual change. This career path has placed me on the forefront of scientific breakthrough.”
  • Laura Nguyen, Omega Therapeutics: “Stay strong. Not every roadblock is a defeat, and the roadblocks may help channel you to a more creative path.”
  • Amy Perea, Repertoire Immune Medicines: “There is a wide diversity of career paths you can follow in the STEM field. Don’t feel like you need to have it all mapped out when you get started. Choose a first role or degree program that interests you and see where it takes you.”
  • Joanna Swain, Repertoire Immune Medicines: “Be curious and ask questions. Say yes when new opportunities arise, even if (especially if) you don’t think you’re good enough. And don’t hesitate to draw support from the women you meet along the way.”
  • Aishwarya Bapat, Ring Therapeutics: “Stay curious and enjoy the process of pursuing scientific questions!”
  • Parmi Thakker, Ring Therapeutics: “Stay curious, be confident and remind yourself every day that you are more than your gender.”
  • Kristin Ainsworth, Seres Therapeutics: “Stay curious, be bold and know thyself.” May Orfali, M.D., M.B.A., Sigilon Therapeutics: “My advice for women pursuing a career in STEM is to develop a purpose and simplify your life (it is empowering), and remember to always trust your gut.”
  • Melodie Henderson, Sigilon Therapeutics: “Be open to exploring different types of career options where a STEM degree is a useful foundation.”
  • Olivia G. Kelly Ph.D., Sigilon Therapeutics: “Be curious, ask questions, and don't be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself.”
  • May Orfali, M.D., M.B.A., Sigilon Therapeutics: “My advice for women pursuing a career in STEM is to develop a purpose and simplify your life (it is empowering), and remember to always trust your gut.”
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Be bold.


  • Katharine von Herrmann, Ph.D., Flagship Pioneering: “We have the great opportunity to lead this Biological Century. Take pride in your voice and trust that your ideas hold immense value.”
  • Vini Mani, Flagship Pioneering: “Be bold, stay true to yourself, and cultivate relationships with a diverse group of mentors!”
  • Emily Mallick, Invaio: “The opportunities for women are endless. With confidence, determination, and consistency, women can achieve great things and break through boundaries.”
  • Elga Morrison, KSQ: “Speak up, be brave and don’t be afraid to be assertive. As a woman, ensure your opinions are heard.”
  • Karrie Wong, KSQ: “Don't forget to give yourself credit and be confident in your voice.”
  • Maria Torre-Castillo, KSQ: “Failure is part of the learning process, do not fear failure, embrace the temporary discomfort. Be BOLD, fail forward.”
  • Anne Kowal, Laronde: “My advice: Just do it! There are so many important problems to solve, the world is waiting for your contributions!”
  • Angela Anthony , Rubius Therapeutics: “Never, not for one moment, doubt your ability or right to be in that class, degree programs, or role. Women are making strides each day to forge ahead in the STEM fields, each one of them a promise for generations to come. One day, you’ll look back on the path that you have taken and see the women following the footprints you yourself have left behind.”
  • Dana Ledue, Senda Biosciences: “My advice is speak up. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, share ideas, and advocate for yourself. Challenge yourself and those around you because what might seem like the most daunting tasks or questions could lead to the greatest discoveries. Lastly, make connections wherever you go.”
  • Thais Nascimento, Senda Biosciences: “It is necessary to go against the grain. There will be a lot of challenges in an industry that is not designed for women, but the rewards are greater than the challenges.”
  • Amy Muse, Seres Therapeutics: “Follow your passion, believe in yourself, seek a mentor, and don’t let anything get in your way.”
  • Jennie Starr, Seres Therapeutics: “We are privileged in STEM to be able to change lives for the better. So be bold, disrupt, be curious, and lead. Don't wait to be told you can; step up and make it happen.”
  • Katie Schneider, Sigilon Therapeutics: “Don't be afraid to try something new or different career-wise. Every opportunity is a chance to learn new and interesting skills!”
  • Priya Sothiselvam, Tessera Therapeutics: “Be fearless and go where your heart takes you even if it is the road less taken. Learn to speak up and don’t shy away from standing up for yourself and what you believe in. If it is something you are truly passionate about, don’t give up!”
  • Jessica Sadick, Ph.D., Valo: “Ask questions! Your viewpoint, experience, and input are invaluable throughout all stages of your career. Asking questions and engaging in discussion will expand your scientific, technical, and professional understanding, while fostering an environment where colleagues are inspired to ask their own questions.”
  • Jessica Wakefield, YourBio: “To rise as a young woman in this space, it’s crucial to build up your confidence and stand up for yourself. If you have an idea or observation, speak up, as diversity of thoughts are often the key to solving complex problems in the industry. It is also important not to shy away from owning how important your contributions are; that is essential to your personal brand and reputation as a scientist.“
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Believe in yourself.

Participants:

  • Alison Schecter, M.D., Axcella Therapeutics: "Believe in yourself. Trust your instincts. Reach deep into your toolbox and use and value of all your talents – beyond technical ability.If you think out of the box, be unafraid to entirely re-imagine the box, or even make a circle. Bring to the table your feminine strengths: being intuitive, building emotional connections, and striving for self-actualization."
  • Jenette Ashtekar, Ph.D., CIBO: “My advice to women pursuing a career in STEM is to be confident in your capabilities and the value you bring to the table. Just because you are in the minority doesn’t mean you don’t belong. Be bold, be confident, and know that you're right where you should be.”
  • Pallavi Pradeep, Evelo Biosciences: "Believe in yourself, don’t hesitate to speak up and break the norms whenever necessary. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and encouraging. Fuel your passion as you continue moving forward with dedication and I am confident that you will make a difference in the world."
  • Rakshitha Miskin, Radial Therapeutics: "Believe in yourself and voice your ideas. All of us are plagued by unconscious bias- if you find yourself in a situation where you’re made to doubt your abilities, don’t hold back from having fact-based open communication with your peers. Often, it’s a welcomed learning experience."
  • Theonie Anastassiadis, Ph.D., Flagship Pioneering and Alltrna: "1. Take the leap. Ask the hard questions. Be yourself. 2. Let yourself imagine the answer to “what if everything works successfully?”
  • Molly Gibson, Ph.D., Flagship Pioneering and Generate Biomedicines: "Believe your voice matters and speak up - don’t be afraid to take risks and say what you think, knowing you may be wrong. Be powerful, be loud, be humble."
  • Kathy Biberstein, Flagship Pioneering: "My advice is at that inevitable moment of challenge where your fight or flight instinct rises up from the pit of your stomach, be fierce in your belief in yourself… in what got you to that moment in life. Working in STEM means there will many moments of uncertainty. But what got you to where you are in life wasn’t luck and it wasn’t accidental. It was hard work and talent."
  • Mackenzie Coleman, Harbinger Health: "“It can be so difficult to deal with imposter syndrome in an environment that is dominated by men. Don’t fake it until you make it though – know that you are more than enough and that the act of being yourself and standing up for your values makes the industry better, regardless of how anyone receives you. STEM needs you! When things get hard, I look to mentors for perspective and solidarity, and I also think of the ripple effect I am having for everyone who comes after me. Being authentic and embodying what you believe in can be stressful, but I’ve found that with practice, it feels better than playing small and keeping quiet when I know something isn’t right. Keep going – you don’t have to see the entire path ahead to know that you’re on the right track!”
  • Iris Cheong, Omega Therapeutics: "Dream big, believe in yourself, and never give up!”
  • Crystal Bryan, Ring Therapeutics: "I've found that many women in STEM live with imposter syndrome. Look it up, understand it, and talk with your friends about it. Remember: you are awesome and don't let your self tell you differently!"
  • Eloise Wheeler, Ring Therapeutics: "Don't be intimidated if you are the only woman in the room, just go for it. Ask the stupid questions and don't be afraid of looking silly."
  • Hyun Jung Jun, Ring Therapeutics: "Believe in yourself."
  • Marissa Donovan, Sigilon Therapeutics: "As a scientist, you are expected to be skeptical of conclusions and to think critically about results. Try not to let this mindset expand beyond your science into self-doubt and loss of confidence. You do belong and deserve your success."
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