On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, it is crucial that we go beyond simply commemorating past accomplishments. We must also recommit to ensuring women and girls of the future are encouraged and equally represented within STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers.
What better launch pad for that purpose than the award-winning film “Hidden Figures”?
(PHOTO of actors: Janelle Monáe (left), Taraji P. Henson (middle) and Octavia Spencer)
This movie, which was released in January, is arguably a new standard-bearer for empowerment and inclusion. It depicts the journey of three main characters: Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. Through this film set in the 1960s, we’re taken on a journey through their everyday struggles of overcoming discrimination and systemic exclusion as women of color in STEM while becoming instrumental parts of several momentous NASA missions, including John Glenn’s first orbital flight and subsequent moon landing.
No more spoilers, but this story is a stark reminder of TARC ’s mission and why we are committed to it: to help inspire all young minds across the nation to follow their dreams and become the future leaders in STEM we know they can be!
Companies like The Raytheon Company and Lockheed Martin Corporation have accepted the challenge “Hidden Figures” highlights and even stepped in to help promote the message of the movie. Raytheon tackled some potentially discouraging myths about difficulties many assume women engineers face. Lockheed Martin hosted a special screening of the movie for young girls and minority students to encourage them to pursue careers in STEM while introducing the students to some of the company’s aerospace systems staff.
Most recently, General Electric introduced its plan to “bridge the STEM gender gap by 2020” by hiring 20,000 women. Additionally, Accenture provides a steady stream of articles, information and support for women and girls interested in STEM careers.
(Pictured: The Longfellow Middle School 2016 National Finalist TARC teams pose with their mentor, Aaron Clark.)
Today, STEM careers still wrestle with diversity challenges among representation from women and minorities. Yet we at TARC, along with our sponsors, are humbled by the students in our program, who come together from many backgrounds to give their all at this challenge with a similar spirit of curiosity and determination shown in the movie.
The strength of these three women and many others who paved the way for young women and girls today remind us that if given the chance, the sky is truly (in this case quite literally) the limit.
So, where to next? The Moon 2.0? Mars, Europa or beyond? No matter where, let’s make sure the young women and girls of today are given the opportunities and encouragement to become the future scientists and engineers who help plot the course.