Notes from... Lisa Napolione

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Notes from... Lisa Napolione

Company Feature

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are featuring a series of first-person essays from female leaders from The Estée Lauder Companies who share their perspectives on a range of topics primarily relating to women and the workplace.

March 13, 2017 – I was fortunate to have been brought up to believe that I could be anything I wanted to be. In high school, I had a brilliant chemistry teacher who had a profound impact on my life’ s journey. She was a role model and mentored me to pursue a career in the sciences and engineering – especially important as my guidance counselor tried to dissuade me from doing so.


Why did the guidance counselor not encourage my pursuit of science? I’ve spent a good part of my professional career trying to unpack the reasons and to personally make a difference by addressing the underrepresentation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the U.S. and around the world.

Intellectually and intuitively I know how vital it is to the scientific process to include diversity of thinking and backgrounds – even more in our case, in the beauty industry – achieved only through a mix of gender, race, culture and geography. So what does it take to attract more young people, particularly women, into the STEM fields?


We can learn from our founder, Mrs. Estée Lauder. I am inspired that she began her foray into cosmetics after being mentored by her uncle, a Hungarian chemist who came to live with her family. He taught her how to mix creams in their kitchen and then in a laboratory in a stable out back. This relationship, and her interest in science, were foundational to her success.

Given the extraordinary impact of my own mentors, I have always looked to pay it forward. Not only do I mentor people myself, but I also make connections to match everyone in my organization that is interested.  I regularly visit college campuses and frequently present about careers in STEM and use campus interview opportunities to mentor as well. It is incredibly gratifying to be able to help connect someone’s passion area to a role in STEM they never knew existed. My team and I also support high school outreach programs to introduce and encourage STEM careers.


Our industry is recognized for creativity, but when it comes to hard science, our efforts are less known.  Those interested in STEM often have no knowledge of the advanced science and technology that goes on in our labs. We are working hard to change that.

For example, our scientists conduct research on the influence of age, pollution, climate and lifestyle on skin, as well as beauty perception.  They grow cells to identify new biological pathways and to study the aging process.  Makeup chemists in our color labs create new pigment systems and drive breakthroughs in wear.  Our scientists have revolutionized research in the cosmetics industry in a wide range of areas including cellular repair, circadian rhythm, and epigenetics for skin.


The future of science in beauty is an exciting frontier for scientists and engineers to explore, as new discoveries, inventions and innovation lead to the next great iconic products. There are so many meaningful opportunities for talented minds to work on stimulating breakthrough science. Right now, Bio-Physics and Material Sciences are rapidly emerging scientific fields for beauty but what is thrilling is that this is ever-changing.  If it’s hot in science, it will be hot in beauty.


Read more about Research & Development at The Estée Lauder Companies.


Lisa Napolione is Senior Vice President, Global Research & Development, The Estée Lauder Companies, with responsibilities across all brands and products worldwide. She also serves as an Executive Sponsor to the Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness Task Force, an organization that works directly to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Ms. Napolione is an active mentor to students in STEM fields, is a Women in Technology sponsor and is a YMCA Rising Star who has been involved in their mentoring efforts. She graduated from Clarkson University in 1987 with a B.S. degree in chemical engineering and a concentration in biology.

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The Estée Lauder Companies' Notes from... Lisa Napolione

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