Hidden Figures : Fantastic Feminist Films

In 2017, Hidden Figures is being released. A real-life story that follows the unrecognised hard work of the three black women whose work was vital in Project Mercury. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson all played crucial roles in the 1969 moon landing, but their efforts have failed to be appreciated.

The true story highlights the common practice of overlooking women in STEM, but also focuses on the particular issues that face non-white women in the industry, who have to battle both gender and racial stereotypes.

January 2017 cannot come quick enough, because I cannot wait to see this film. So, in the mean time, I thought I would direct you to some other brilliant feminist films (not necessarily related to STEM).

Miss Representation (2011)

This documentary style film explores the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence, and how the women’s movement has battled the barriers that hold back 50% of the population for many years.

It features interviews with some amazing women, such as Geena Davis and Condoleezza Rice, about their experiences as women in their industries.

(It also has a brilliant soundtrack – featuring Gold Guns Girls, by Metric)

Vessel (2014)

Vessel follows a group of doctors, called Women on Waves, who sail a ship around the world to deliver abortions to people in countries where they are illegal.

Their ingenious idea helps to avoid restrictive abortion laws. The documentary highlights that by making abortion illegal, you don’t stop people seeking them, it just drives them underground and makes them unsafe.

The care and compassion the doctors show, as well as the sea-sailing dedication, is incredibly inspiring and the film left me in awe.

Suffragette (2015)

The 2015 film starring Carey Mulligan has a special place in my heart. It follows women’s suffrage in the UK, illustrating the under-ground movement which enabled a concrete change in the law, allowing women to vote.

There are few things I really liked about this film, mainly because it illustrated several aspects of women’s lives in 1912, which to a varying degree women still have to deal with today. Namely: harassment in the workplace, the risk of assault and the pay gap.

Despite the fact that we think we have moved on, half of women experience sexual harassment at work, 1 in 5 women will become the victim of a sexual offence and experts expect that the gender pay gap won’t close until 2069.

The film shows how hard women had to battle, and had to wait years for the pay off for their suffrage. But, to me, it also shows how much fighting we still have left to do.

Which neatly brings me onto my next film suggestion:

The Hunting Ground (21015)

Another documentary makes it onto my list (hey, I like documentaries). This exposé looks at how educational institutions cover up sexual assault on campus.

At university, 1/4 women will experience assault of this kind, however, universities are failing to report this, in fear of effecting their reputation. They are covering up assaults, convincing victims that it was their fault and are even allowing the predator to remain on campus.

It is a chilling documentary, and could be very triggering. However, it is such an important discussion to have, as it threatens women’s education.

The film also focuses on two women, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, who had both experienced this during their studies. They fought to create a title IX case, proving that their right to an equal education was compromised, and have been helping other women along the way as well.

Either these films have passed the Bechtel test or follow inspirational stories from the women’s movement, and I cannot wait to hopefully add Hidden Figure to my list of favourite films.

Other films that I am known to watch over again are:

The Help

Whip It

Erin Brockovich

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Mind-Ful at TEDxSwanseaWomen

I will be speaking at the TEDxSwanseaWomen event at the end of October, which will include five speakers. The series of talks hopes to ‘shine a light on women’, and will be tailored for those who are interested in solving the issue of gender inequality.

Please come and listen to me talk about all things women in STEM!

You can buy tickets here: http://bit.ly/2czOoyM

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Iceland and women in STEM

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I recently went to Iceland, and it gives me the perfect opportunity to shoehorn holiday snaps into a blogpost. But not just that, it also gives me an excellent excuse to talk about the situation for women in STEM in Iceland.

Whats the situation for women in Iceland, you ask? It’s good. Really good.

Iceland has topped the charts as the country with the smallest gender gap for many years, boasting a more equal society. Each year, the country has had an excellent track record for women in four categories; political empowerment, education, economic participation and health.

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This more balanced society has a brilliant byproduct – the effects of Stereotype Threat is lessened.

Stereotype Threat is psychological phenomenon observed in repressed groups, where stereotypes concerning those groups actually effective their affect their performance at schools; and this happens on an unconscious level.

A relevant example here is that there is a stereotype that girls are less intellectual than boys and are bad at maths – and this stereotype unconsciously inhibits their abilities in maths and physics. And therefor it is interesting to note that in the UK, girls outperform boys in every subject in school, apart from maths and physics.

However, in countries that are more equal, the gender gap in STEM subjects is significantly less or completely none existent. This could be partially accredited towards the affects of Stereotype Threat being significantly less. As the more equal a society is, the less polarised the roles of women in men are, and the strict devision of women and men by stereotypes is less.

And Iceland is a perfect example of this.

Their country is more equal, and this is then reflected in the achievements of boys and girls in STEM subjects. Because, in Iceland girls and boys perform the same in maths and physics at school.

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Another factor that can reduce the impact of Stereotype Threat is better representation of women in STEM within the industry and within the media.

Iceland delivers that, with a 50:50 gender spilt within their STEM workforce. This then filters down to the younger generations. It allows girls to easily see women doing science, and therefor they can identify with them and imagine themselves in that career. It also enables increased receptiveness from girls and boys towards women in STEM, and helps to counteract any negative stereotypes.

This is a very different picture to what we have in the UK. In Europe, the UK is on the lower end of the scale when it comes to the rate of women in STEM employment, at 14.4%. And we are in fact the lowest end of the scale when it comes to women in engineering in Europe, with women making up less than 10% of engineering employees.

So when I left Iceland, I left with an appreciation of their efforts towards societal wide equality and the effects this has on women in STEM (as well as some Icelandic liquorice).

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