Women Of Color In Stem Careers And Promise For Them In The Hidden Figures Movie

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How often do people hear of women when it comes to prosperity and success without seeing them online with barely any clothes on. From earlier years to now there have been more inspirational examples of strong women like Oprah, Susan B. Anthony, and Michelle Obama, but there is still an alarming high gap of women when it comes to being perceived in predominantly white male career choices . Secondary education and moving on to college, is an accomplishment for many people. College primarily can be seen as a big step for those in poverty or with citizenship problems. Mainly people of minority, for example, women of color, that go onto college are the first of their families to get the opportunity, and they have to struggle very hard to maintain a balance between school, work, and their social lives. However, when it comes to declaring a major, women are rarely seen in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers. Women are not going into STEM careers because of under representation, stereotypes in color, and astigmatism of gender in the workplace.

Due to the underrepresentation of women in STEM careers, programs like the National Girls Collaboration Program (NGCP) form. This government program works on informing young women throughout the United States and encourages them to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Their goals are to strengthen the amount of women in STEM, maximize access to resources for young women who look forward to joining STEM, and create the highline for gender equality for women in STEM careers. According to NGCP website, in regards to the statistics of STEM careers:

“ Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce. Female scientists and engineers are concentrated in different occupations than are men, with relatively high shares of women in the social sciences (62%) and biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences (48%) and relatively low shares in engineering (15%) and computer and mathematical sciences (25%)”(“Statistics”)

Women that are getting education at college level are few of the percentage that go into STEM based careers. When reviewing the 29% percent of women that go into the science and engineering workforce, which is mostly male dominated, there are only 15 percent women of that 29%. From a mathematical point of view, 15% of 29%, is .0435. After getting this decimal, multiply it by 100 and out of all of the women that are in the U.S. college-educated workforce, only 4.35% pursue engineering.

Women are underrepresented when it comes to being in STEM based careers, especially engineering, as when viewing to advertisements. Women in advertisements are constantly shown as objects more than they are human beings. As seen in many commercials for the most insignificant things, derogatory actions are done to women and spoken about women in general. These actions can list from being half naked/or fully naked, name calling, promoting sexual harassment and/ promoting abuse.According to Wellesley Centers for Women, which is a women- and gender-focused, social-change-oriented, research-and-action institute whose mission is to advance gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing through high-quality research, theory, and action programs, Women are used as object in advertisements.Jean Kilbourne Ed.D states through both her experience as a retired model and her research, “The way that ads portray bodies—especially women’s bodies—as objects conditions us to see each other in dehumanizing ways, thus “normalizing” attitudes that can lead to sexual aggression.( qtd. in Colombo). With the constant harm done to women of all races, it makes society think that harrassment, abuse, and manipulation is acceptable to make money. These advertisements are not tolerable, and should be banned as they teach children that this behavior is justifiable and more violent actions against women grow around the world because they are brainwashed to believe that because they saw it on television, it is suitable to do it in person.

Women of color have to deal with twice the effects of double standards and stereotypes from their gender and their race. As a person of color, and as a woman, people expect them to fail. The weight of being an African American and/or Hispanic and dealing with the discrimination against one’s race can limit an individual from achieving a status that he/she craves and fights for. This can vary from not knowing the right people to even being stopped just because of the racist remarks and beliefs of people of color being unable to do anything. Elizabeth MacBride, writer on an insight article from the Graduate School of Stanford Business, states in her article:

For example, imagining a sexist or a racist comment from a boss made women and ethnic minorities more likely to intentionally do inaccurate work, start rumors, or ignore co-workers who need help. In one correlational study, the researchers asked 311 college students whether they worried about being seen negatively because of their ethnicity. The more the college students worried or expected stereotyping, the more likely they were to report engaging in delinquent behavior, like skipping classes, verbally abusing someone, or vandalizing school property.(MacBride).

This stress on an individual can make he/she feel as if he/she is not good enough to function along with society and for women of color, this starts the gap as working agents in a working economy in order to support themselves and their future families.

When it comes to astigmatisms in gender for the workforce women are not seen in STEM careers. Referring back to the National Girls Collaboration Program, it states, “Minority women comprise fewer than 1 in 10 employed scientists and engineers”(Statistics) That is less than 10% of the total scientist and engineering community in general. This can be discouraging for young women of color who aspire to take on any careers in STEM based careers, especially engineering. As young women grow into liking or taking interests in STEM based careers, they may find that there are barely any individuals to look up to, this can make them change their mind because of the rare image of women who actually thrive without having to be half naked on the camera. Young women should have more role models to look up to so that they can have a bright future and goals set in place to start their journey of life. Young women also need to have more sponsors who can closely relate to them so that they understand that everyone goes through tough times but it is how they gather from this state that makes or break their characters. Auditi Guha, a Northeast Regional Reporter for Rewire.News has first handedly dealt with discrimination, injustice and even as far as death threats in her career. Through her news article, “Report: Black Women Face Inequality In Every Part Society”, she states:

As Alicia Garza, the panel’s moderator, said in a statement, “While Black women are working hard, democracy isn’t working for us, and hard work isn’t paying off. Black families depend on Black women, yet Black women face the highest poverty rates in the nation, second only to indigenous women. We do our part to make this country better—we vote at higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group. It’s time for an agenda that puts Black women at the center, for the sake of all of us.” Garza is the co-founder of Black Lives Matter and NDWA special projects director(qtd. in Guha).

Women of color offer many things to the table, they follow their laws and responsibilities and yet when it comes to the tier of society, they are always at the bare minimum. As women of color struggle for everything they accomplish, people in society that are higher than them barely have to lift a finger.

The promise for women in STEM based careers is constantly ignored. When looking at where women are going when it comes to job occupancy, they become nurse practitioners and other careers such as dentist. There are plenty of women who become CEOs and people who are the bosses of their own businesses. Many of these businesses are successful, an example is CurlBOX. This business was created by a woman named Myleik Teele and her focus is on other women who need help with embracing and celebrating their natural curls. Teele has created this business to cater to women of color as well as cultured women to help discover another part of them to help with self-confidence. In the process for the applications, her company delivers hair products and tips for women to help find their natural pattern or maintain their locks or coils.

Another example for the promise for women of color is the Hidden Figures movie. This movie’s release in the U.S.A. on January 6, 2017 caught a lot of press. This movie is based on the the first launch of the astronauts into orbit and how three women were the masterminds of the mission. In the trailer, viewers see how the women are questioned where they work and when answered that they work with NASA, the man is highly confused as if it was impossible for women, let alone women of color to possibly work in jobs of that field. Yet, instead of the characters catching offense, they smirked and her confidence glowed off their faces. Young women of color need to know their confidence levels can be up to par with men. Confidence can affect the proficiency of their work and the way they feel when it comes to their career.

Since the lack of role models, constant dehumanization in advertisements and double standards in both race and gender persist within the community of women. Although women have a future that is promising in STEM based fields and they can provide many benefits that other candidates cannot, they have to struggle and strive harder than any male. Young women need to understand they can have the same confidence as any other worker in society without going through sexual harassment, whether it be the workplace or anywhere else they go. Without change, young women will continue to think that their gender does not belong in a “man’s world”.

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