Hidden Figures The importance of the untold stories

Based on the novel of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, the Oscar nominated, Hidden Figures, highlights the importance of the female mathematicians and the role they played in helping America win the space race. Following the lives of three incredible women: Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan portrayed by Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer, hidden figures tackles the issues women and in particular, African American women, faced when trying to navigate a career in the white male dominated STEM careers, such as NASA and how they fought to overcome the challenges of racism and sexism to earn the deserved recognition and place within the organisation.

It’s such an important set of stories to tell, particularly as for many, they remain unknown. The space race is known in some detail to a large portion of people but the mathematicians and in particular, the female mathematicians largely go unnoticed or ungratified. To showcase their stories is so important and quite emotional as a viewer, knowing it’s taken so long for the story to be in the limelight after such a notable achievement.

Perhaps a film that could encourage more women and girls to consider a career in STEM fields, it’s worth broadcasting to a large audience, giving the women the recognition they deserve and young girls the role models to aspire to.

‘Every time we try to move ahead, they move the finish line.’ This notable quote from the film highlights the challenges faced back in the 1970s as well as the importance of the fight for equality that remains today. Whilst things have dramatically improved for both men and women, there is still a distance to go. Although women have more of an accepted role in STEM careers, according to Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), in 2014, women made up only 12.8% of the STEM workforce. This divide shows the importance of encouraging more women to pursue careers in STEM fields.

Miss Nuneaton, Emily Bunce, aged 25, has shown her strength across a diverse range of skills. Aside from her success in beauty pageants, she’s a biomedical scientist at Coventry’s University Hospital, proving through her academic success, the intelligence and capabilities of women both in careers in science and within beauty pageants. Both areas are important achievements and show that a woman can achieve in a variety of fields, with no limitations.

Between the more national, historical stories like those highlighted in Hidden Figures, and the more local, but still significant, stories such as Bunce's achievements, young girls have more and more women to aspire to. They confirm that women can belong in those roles and perhaps encourage a more open mind as to which subjects and career paths, girls can or want to follow, closing the gap between men and women within STEM careers and subjects more and more each year.

By Steph Lowe

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