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Movies Making A Real Difference: 'Hidden Figures' Inspires New STEM Exchange Program

By Tori Preston | Miscellaneous | August 10, 2017 |

By Tori Preston | Miscellaneous | August 10, 2017 |

For the first time ever, a Hollywood movie has inspired a new publicly funded exchange program through the U.S. State Department. And naturally, that movie was 2016’s Hidden Figures, a film that failed to bring home an Oscar but instead is bringing home 50 women working in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) from around the world.

As I’m sure you recall, Hidden Figures told the story of the African American mathematicians (played by goddesses Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe) who helped NASA put a man into space, shedding light onto their important contributions — which, due to their race and gender, had been nearly scrubbed from the history books. The film garnered worldwide interest, leading embassies abroad to call up the U.S. State Department, who in turn reached out to the film’s distributor, Fox 2000. In the end they were able to set up an unprecedented number of screenings at more than 80 overseas locations. And that got folks at the State Department thinking…

The new program, called #HiddenNoMore in honor of the film, is being organized by the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. It will bring participants (all women working in STEM fields from over 50 countries abroad) first to Washington D.C. in October for a special screening of the film at National Geographic. From there they will be split into subgroups and spend three weeks traveling the country to promote STEM education and careers to women and girls at universities, the Girl Scouts, and other organizations. Then they will all regroup in Los Angeles for a special 2-day event hosted by Fox on their lot.

Whether any of these women will get a chance to swing by Google and talk to them about the impact women can have on technology is unclear. But you have to admit, the timing of this announcement is just impeccable. It’s also nice to see Hollywood making a difference in the representation of women in the real world — one that doesn’t have anything to do with unrealistic body image norms.

Tori Preston is the managing editor of Pajiba. She tweets here. You can also listen to her weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.