Leadership, Empowerment and Development in STEM

The Leadership, Empowerment and Development in STEM (LEADS) program was designed and implemented by an all-female group of scientists and educators in 2022-2023 to help support and prepare high school students to be leaders. The program features activities that build seven major skills that are foundational for STEM leaders. The program also features STEM leaders, who share personal stories of their career journeys, including barriers they faced and strategies they used for overcoming such barriers.

Currently, the program runs twice a year, in the summer and winter, and is open to students who participate in any of SEE's summer experiences. If you are a high school student interested in participating in the LEADS program, apply for one of our summer opportunities! Applications open every January and are due in March. If you are a past participant of one of SEE's summer experiences and you want to participate in LEADS, reach out to our team at see@isbscience.org.



People from marginalized communities are underrepresented in STEM leadership positions across industry, academia, and the federal workforce. Not only do students who are marginalized in STEM leave the STEM field as they progress through their education and careers, they also experience a number of barriers - both structural and interpersonal - that prevent them from obtaining more advanced positions of leadership in their fields.

A multitude of factors play a role in both attrition and a person's inability to secure leadership positions, such as lack of mentorship, family and communal values, attitudes towards STEM, stereotypes and stereotype threat, and "weed out" culture. While we recognize that ISB cannot eliminate social inequities, we will support students from marginalized communities in

  • finding their place in STEM,
  • connecting with a STEM community,
  • building leadership competencies, and
  • providing tools for students to advocate for themselves.

The LEADS program strengthens STEM identity and develops leadership skills for the next generation of STEM leaders, which will create a better and more diverse STEM community that will ultimately benefit society.

caret-down caret-up caret-left caret-right
"Initially I wasn't sure whether to take the opportunity of this experience, since I also had a lot of other activities going on at the time and wasn't sure if it was worth my time. But I pushed myself to do so because I've been wanting to improve my leadership and communication skills. I found that decision to be a good one. I've learned lots from this program, challenged my own ideas, and confirmed some other things that have been said to me by mentors in the past. If there are more experiences like this, I would definitely want to do them."

2022 LEADS Participant
"I discovered that my largest strength is optimism and resilience, and I could leverage these skills to be a leader in STEM. Additionally as a woman in STEM, I learned that I could help combat several issues that result in a lack of diversity in a team, an example being toxic masculinity."

2022 LEADS Participant
"I learned that [leaders] are complex and diverse, not every leader is the same and everyone has a different approach to what a leader should be."

2023 LEADS Participant
"I learned more about my leadership style. I also learned that it is okay to not be extremely extroverted or charismatic as a leader. While confidence is important, I can give myself the permission to slowly build it up."

2023 LEADS Participant

To learn more about the outcomes and benefits of the LEADS program, please send an email to see@isbscience.org requesting an impact report.






Platinum Sponsors
Douglas Howe
Laurie Black
Gold Sponsors
Lightbridge Solutions
Fremont Dock
Silver Sponsor
Graham Thompson

The LEADS program was initially made possible through seed funding from the Institute for Systems Biology Innovator Award program, the Washington Research Foundation, and Roger Perlmutter.

Please consider supporting LEADS today.

If you're interested in sponsoring, contact us for more information.

The following contributors supplied time and effort to make this program possible: Alexandra Ralevski, Allison Kudla, Anjana Punniamoorthy, Anna Kuchina, Anuscheh Nawaz, Anya Shukla, Aparna Srindhi Jagannathan, Becky Howsmon, Charu Midha, Claudia Ludwig, Eliza Peterson, Gabriela Mosquera, Isabelle Yuan, Jacob Valenzuela, Jennifer Dougherty, Julia Smith, Kelly Crebs, Margaret Li, Mary Brunkow, Mehak Arora, Miranda Johnson, Monica Ballas, Monica Orellana, Nitin Baliga, Rachel Calder, Ria Mohan, Samantha Piekos, Sara Calder, Sean Gibbons, Sevda Molani, Shelley Stromholt, Thanipa Suwanchote, Ulrike Kusebauch, Yeon Mi Hwang, Sarah Feng, and Lea Repovic. (Initial leadership team members are in maroon.)