Like fashion, workouts, and diets, media has trends. Meant to reflect world or inspire change media speaks out in various ways for what things are, should be, or used to be. In regards to STEM, media has been branching out in how it portrays sexes, ages, and races in the industry. It has also altered how people interpret STEM, making it seem more fun than portrayed in the past. From movies and tv shows to commercials and YouTube, STEM is becoming more and more inclusive. Though sprinkled with negatives, this shift is loaded with positives.
Earlier in the year, we talked about Hidden Figures, a movie about female “computers” that contributed to many successful missions of NASA. This was a major stance for women in STEM. Not that there haven’t been other attempts to show women at the forefront of the industry, but in most sci-fi and STEM films, women cannot JUST be scientists. They can’t JUST be technology geniuses. They can’t JUST be astronauts and ship captains. Women have to be romantic interests, a pretty face, too shy to talk or so hot they’re salivated over. Now this is not to say that women cannot be all of these things, but it is refreshing just to see a female mastering her work and not capitalize on her other qualities. So, thank you Hidden Figures for separating business from pleasure. Thank you Ghost Busters for showing raw womanhood with brains. Thank you news outlets for making the signing of House Bills 255 and 321, promoting women in STEM and entrepreneurship as significant as it should be.
Hidden Figures has not only brought women into the spotlight, but African Americans as well. Showing an ethnicity other than Caucasian, as a contributor to the STEM community, has become a trend in STEM media. STEM opportunity fairs and summer camps for minority children are popping up. Comic book character, Riri Williams, has recently been introduced as a young, African American female engineer who attends M.I.T. STEMedia recently posted a picture on instagram highlighting how 40% of black engineers come from HBCUs. Verizon has just put out a commercial with the hashtag “weneedmore”, pointing out how the United States doesn’t need more athletes or models. What it needs more of is people in STEM, stating that there are over 4 million available science and tech jobs in the U.S. This commercial offers free tech and access to “students in need”, visually, targeting minority students. The great thing about this is minorities get to see their reflection on television in a positive light, but to some, seeing mainly minorities in the commercial as “in need” may be a topic of conflict.
What the Verizon commercial, and comic book character, Riri Williams do promote successfully, is targeting young adults. This strategy introduces STEM to people at an early age, increasing the chances of someone going into that field later in life. It makes STEM seem less intimidating and more accomplishable, which has not always been the case in the U.S. The NASA website encourages kids to get into STEM. Kids shows like “Bill Nye the Science Guy”, “Zoom”, “Cyberchase”, “Sid the Science Kid”, and “Wild Kratts”, used to and continue to bring STEM into the homes of children.
The media is constantly pouring ideas into us . Microsoft, for example, recently launched a campaign promoting girls in STEM. Commercials titled “#MakeWhatsNext”, “Girls Do Science” and “What Are You Going to Make?” feature young ladies of all ethnicities talking about male inventors and how that’s who they learn about in school and how science is typically seen as being for boys. These girls are then shown the many things invented by females. They are asked how they want to change the world. They are shown futuristic tools provided by Microsoft to help them bring about those changes. These commercials are inspiring not only for females, youth, and minorities, but the world as well. It is cliche to say, but undoubtedly true, the children are our future. We should be excited to encourage them, celebrate them and open them up to endless possibilities regardless of ethnicity or sex. Today, media continues to make this concept a trend.
This piece comes to us from one of our talented content contributors, Cynthia Sharpe. Her bio is below and if you would like to work with us you can email us here!
Cynthia M. Sharpe, is a May 2015 graduate of NC State University. Cynthia graduated with a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing and currently aspires to pursue an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. “As I let my own light shine, I unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” -Cynthia M. Sharpe, inspired by Marianne Williamson