Wednesday, January 11, 2017

‘Hidden Figures’ reminds us STEM is where black women belong - GRIO

by Niki McGloster 
Originally published: January 9, 2017 
Publisher: Grio.com 

Like most award-nominated films, Hidden Figures was a must-see during its opening weekend. Based on true events and Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name, the two-hour feature is a dazzlingly heartfelt story that uncovers the historic contributions of mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and her colleagues Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). The three black women play an integral part at NASA in the American space race of the 1960s, with focus on Johnson’s exact calculations of the launches and landings of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell).

However, aside from the obvious triumphs of these women in the face of roaring racism, the film’s indirect focus falls on the necessary role of black women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Today, young black women are often discouraged from pursuing careers in STEM due to gender and racial bias, microaggressions in the workplace and the lack of mainstream representation. How can a young black girl know what she can achieve in science if her heroes are erased from history or their work is eclipsed by that of white men?