At Study International, we write enough about STEM to know that we don’t have enough women in one of the most important fields of study today.
STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, suffers from really poor gender parity worldwide.
In the United States, for example, only a quarter of scientists and engineers are female.
According to new data from the European Union’s statistics agency, Eurostat, there are twice as many male graduates in science, mathematics, computing, engineering, manufacturing and construction, as there are female graduates.
The gap persists, even widens, at some of the continent’s most developed higher education systems.
Hollywood isn’t a place gender roles are typically destroyed but a string of hugely successful blockbusters are proving otherwise.
Last year, the big screen gave us diverse and high-quality portrayals of women and girls in STEM. Those who dismiss the importance of this should know that such portrayals have significant impact on young women and how they view themselves as well as the occupations they pursue.
An analysis by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that there was only one female character shown in STEM jobs for every 15 male characters. Disappointing? Yes. Shocking? Not the slightest bit.
“When girls in their formative years don’t see female characters on screen as biochemists, software developers, engineers, or statisticians, they are less likely to imagine or pursue those career paths for themselves,” Geena Davis said.
Flip that over, and we have the Institute’s 2018 study, “The Scully Effect” on the influence The X-Files’ protagonist Dana Scully on girls and women entering the STEM field. Nearly two-thirds of women working in STEM today say that Scully served as their personal role model and increased their confidence to excel in a male-dominated profession.
“In other words, as we say, ‘If she can see it, she can be it’,” Davis added.
Enough with the princesses and damsels in distress roles already.
In 2018, these are the top badass female lead roles inspiring all aspiring female STEM students everywhere:
1. Shuri (Black Panther)
.@letitiawright is beloved as Shuri in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, giving the young genius a unique strength and charisma that keeps @Avengers and @theblackpanther fans on their toes 😍 pic.twitter.com/rc9cVa3MCk
— BAFTA (@BAFTA) January 3, 2019
In our minds, there is no dispute to who is the true hero of Wakanda. T’Challa may be the ripped brawn and heir to the throne but let’s face it, he would’ve been dead without tech whiz Shuri arriving (many times) to save his sorry ass.
Self-made kitten claws weapon? Check. Genius level intellect? Check. Extensive training in martial arts? Check. It’s settled. Bye, Tony Stark. The role for STEM genius in Marvel is now Shuri’s.
Gabriela Myles, a seventh-grader told The New York Times after watching the film: “The film makes me want to start my own tribe and make my own inventions to help the world.”
Another student, Paris Bellinger said: “They were very smart because most of the women made the technology they had.”
2. Lena (Annihilation)
One of my favorite movies was ANNIHILATION and it scared the crud out of me and I loved it https://t.co/DBO8kNRYG0
— Casey Cipriani (@CaseyCip) December 31, 2018
Hailed as the future of sci-fi, the movie about a quintet of female scientists heading into a strange disaster zone in the swamps of Florida broke all the rules… and that’s what makes it so good.
For one, we not only have Lena, played by Natalie Portman, as the lead character here, playing cellular-biology professor and former soldier.
But also four other women in impressive STEM jobs: Dr. Ventress, a psychologist, Radek the physicist (Tessa Thompson), Thorensen the Emergency Medical Technician (Gina Rodriguez), and Sheppard the geomorphologist (Tuva Novotny).
They’re driven and active. They make their own choices. Their intelligence and strength shine through, with no compromise on personality and character.
But there isn’t any conversation about, “We’re trying all women this time because…” or any remark about their femininity, female nature, or gender whatsoever, except for the one remark Lena makes that the team is made up of “all women”.
Their being women is just a matter of fact, and that’s how STEM should be in reality too.
3. Nine Ball (Ocean’s 8)
Played by Rihanna, Nine Ball was recruited to the all-women heist team to break the Met’s security system and help cover up their tracks. And she’s a total expert in what she does.
She can remotely make an entire apartment go dark, use a dog-filled newsletter to hack into the Met’s security server, plant recording devices like a total boss – in other words, this is one female hacker extraordinaire.
When women make up only 18 percent of American computer-science college degrees and only 27 percent of all students taking the AP Computer Science exam in the US, the image of Nine Ball doing all the above is a powerful, ball-busting and stereotype-destroying one to inspire this and many generations to come.