By Patricia Sellers
October 6, 2009

“It’s all the other fields that are aberrant.”

— American scientist Carol Greider, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine, announced today. Her field of research, unlike practically any other, has as many high-achieving women as men. This anomalous corner of biology, telomere research, has to do with the degradation of chromosomes–potentially critical work in understanding human aging and diseases, including cancer. Greider, who is a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, captured the prize for work she did years ago with two other U.S. scientists, Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak. In a telephone interview on nobelprize.org, she notes that prominent biologists brought women into telomere research early on. “You have someone that trains a lot of women, and then there’s a slight gravitation of women to work in the labs with other women.”

So goes the power of connection. We at Fortune, through the Most Powerful Women Summit, are helping to develop more high-achieving women in science. The grim reality is, women constitute 46% of the U.S. workforce but hold just 26% of the jobs in engineering, science and technology. So we set up the National Math + Science Young Leaders Program, in partnership with Exxon Mobil

and the National Math + Science Initiative, to pair outstanding U.S. college juniors majoring in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields with senior woman execs. The big idea is to produce scientists and engineers at a faster rateā€”and meantime, share lessons in leadership and showcase career options available to the next generation.

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