Can 'Hidden Figures' help increase the amount of black women in STEM?
December 14, 2016 at 3:00 pm
Photo: Awards Daily
Bringing in the new year, Fox Studios presents Hidden Figures. This film gives visuals and voices to the women behind putting the first man on the moon. Here's a trailer for the movie if you haven't seen it yet:
Although we have known Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer for their extraordinary performances on the music stage and TV screens, these three powerhouses come together in a film that shows how three women helped NASA scientists helped send John Glenn into space. Henson's character is Katherine Johnson, whose brilliance had her promoted to a role in the Space Task Group that was responsible for sending Glenn into orbit. Monáe is Mary Jackson, who has to lobby a local judge to allow her access to a local segregated school so she can take night classes that will enable her to train as NASA’s first female black engineer. Spencer plays Dorothy Vaughan, who supervises a team over at the West Computing Building, but is denied the title and compensation that matches her position.
Although these women were striving for equality and opportunity in 1960s, fast forward to now and there's still a huge gap in the interest and opportunity necessary for minority women to fulfill STEM-related positions like the one possessed by the leading ladies of this film. Let's look at the statistics:
*Female and male students enrolled in advanced science courses at comparable rates, with females slightly more likely than males to do so (22% versus 18%). However, only 15% of black students and 17% of Hispanic students took these courses.
*Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce
*Hispanics, blacks and American Indians/Alaska Natives make up a smaller share of the science and engineering workforce (11%) ) than their proportion in the general population (27% of U.S. working-age population).
With media and television influencing dress, style and career goals (even being a reality TV star is seen as "goals" for some), can this film and the representation within it build interest for STEM programs? Hidden Figures is set to be in theaters everywhere on January 6, 2017.