As the world celebrates the best in cinematic achievement this weekend, all eyes will be on Hidden Figures, the Oscar-nominated film about female African-American mathematicians who played a vital role at NASA in the 1960s. This film has inspired many for its portrayal of a group that rarely gets meaningful screen time – women of colour working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
Hidden Figures celebrates women who persisted – women who literally reached for the stars and knocked down countless obstacles to achieve their goals and make astronomical contributions to the fields of math and science.
When it comes to STEM, we still have a long way to to go to balance the equation on the levels of participation of women and girls. Gender barriers persist and many of our most brilliant physicists, engineers and mathematicians will tell you that women have to work harder than their male counterparts to be taken seriously.
What does this have to do with Guiding? A lot. Guiding is all about girls challenging themselves, putting their ideas into action, taking risks and gaining the skills to confidently take on every opportunity that comes their way. Girls need meaningful opportunities to reach their potential and to be who they want to be. They need role models who will support them as they explore STEM and not hold them back. They need the chance to create, design, test, calculate and conquer.
I truly believe that when girls in Guiding have the chance to experiment and connect with STEM , it gets them thinking about and exploring the world around them. Whether it’s Sparks getting messy and creative with bubble experiments, Guides designing their own marble runs or Pathfinders creating stop-motion animation on their smart phones, these kinds of hands-on experiences with STEM can help inspire the new generation of innovators.
Of course, you can’t be what you can’t see. One of the biggest benefits of Guiding is the opportunity for girls to connect with women mentors from all backgrounds. Our volunteers come from all walks of life, from every imaginable career field. Every week , they help girls discover they can achieve more than they ever imagined and realize that girls can and SHOULD make a difference in the world. When we invest in girls with connections to female mentors and exposure to STEM, we are investing in the next generation of innovators and imagineers – ultimately we’re investing in the future of our planet.
Guest post by Pamela Rice, Chief Commissioner, Girl Guides of Canada. Want to explore opportunities in STEM with your girls? Check out our Close the Gap programming.