On Tuesday, June 10, I attended a fantastic event called See Jane Salon, on Women Pioneers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) put on by the Geena Davis Institute for Gender Studies in Media.
Check out their event summary:
How can media encourage girls and women to pursue careers in science? One way is to feature exciting and dynamic portrayals of female scientists in movie and TV shows. Sounds easy enough, but the Geena Davis Institute’s 2012 research on the career occupations of female characters in family films, prime time and children’s television showed that there was a 15:1 ratio of male to female characters in science. Why is this so important? Because by 2018, there will be 1.2 million US job openings in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, with a significant shortage of qualified applicants to fill them. This See Jane Salon will showcase real women pioneers in STEM along with entertainment industry leaders who are creating great female characters in science.
The panel included Andrea Fernandez, Creative Director GoldieBlox, Dr. Kathy Magliato, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Taryn O’Neill, Actor, Jaime Paglia, TV and Film Writer/Producer The Flash (and co-creator of Eureka!), Christina Reynolds, Development Executive Amazon Studios, Amanda Segal, Co-Executive Producer, Person of Interest, Laura Tenenbaum, Communication Specialist NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, and moderator, Megan Smith, Entrepreneur, VP Google.
If she can see it she can be it
What I liked about the panel was that they didn’t focus solely on the unique challenges of being a women in their chosen fields. If you’re a woman, particularly a WOC, you already know the challenges of being underrepresented in whatever field you’re in, STEM or not. That, unfortunately, is what a lot of women-centric panels of this sort turn into, running out of time before any solutions are discussed. To about 200 attendees, 95% of whom were women, they provided real data in addition to the anecdotes of experiences, which I found refreshing.
I’d joined a Google+ hangout on Disrupting Entrepreneurship and Innovation with Megan Smith about month ago and she reiterated on stage some interesting points about hiring practices and systemic bias toward women in stem fields. The fewer women that are present in a group, the higher the tendency to expect that women to represent the ‘female’ point of view, rather than a single person’s point of view. Also, for any given job criteria, a woman will tend apply only if she meets 7/10 of those characteristics, where a man will tend to apply if he meets just 3/10. I live-tweeted a few other things which you can find on Twitter using a hashtag search for #stem on June 10th.
I hope to attend more events like this and become a part of the solution for this issue. Do you have a favorite tv show or movie that features women characters in stem? Mine is the show ‘Eureka’ on Syfy. Let me know yours in a comment.