Celebrating the real-life leading ladies of STEM

Five ways to inspire girls to reach for the stars during Women’s History Month

Hidden Figures, the highest grossing Oscar-nominated movie of the year, tells the true story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who worked behind the scenes at NASA to help launch astronaut John Glenn into space. The film shines a welcomed spotlight on women in STEM and is a must-see for students and educators alike—especially as we kick off Women’s History Month.

The long “hidden” account of brave, brilliant women defying race and gender stereotypes to advance the space program has stirred unprecedented interest in STEM careers and inspired girls of all ages—including 13-year-old Taylor Richardson. Taylor has been an aspiring astronaut (and STEM enthusiast) since the first grade when a savvy librarian introduced her to the story of
Dr. Mae Jemison, the first female African American astronaut.

Taylor-Richardson-NASA

Taylor Richardson, Aspiring Astronaut. Credit: Photo by Jensen Hande Studios

Paying it forward

In December of 2016, Taylor was invited to attend a special screening of Hidden Figures at the White House in the company of cast members, astronauts, and first lady Michelle Obama. Moved by both the film and the experience, Taylor and her mom started a GoFundMe page to send 100 girls from her Jacksonville community to screen the movie too.

In just one month, Taylor’s effort to pay it forward raised over $17,500 (nearly seven times her $2,600 goal). It was enough to host two screenings and give away more than 1,000 Hidden Figures tickets and books. You can read more about Taylor’s inspiring history of giving back, evangelizing for STEM, and reaching for the stars in this GoFundMe profile.

Interestingly enough, Taylor shares a lot with the heroes in Hidden Figures including a common thread that unites women in STEM communities the world over—their enthusiasm is positively contagious. Once they catch the STEM bug they feel compelled to spread it. Celebrate Women’s History Month by exposing your students to what we hope will some day be an epidemic. Here are five ways easy to bring the Hidden Figures story into your classroom:

  1. Download a free companion guide to the film
    Techbridge, a San Francisco based after-school STEM program for girls, created this handy Hidden Figures discussion guide.
  2. Introduce students to the book
    For those who can’t make it to the theater, the newly released “Young Readers’ Edition” of Margot Lee Shetterly’s book is a great way to bring this extraordinary story of NASA’s human “computers” (Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson) into the classroom.
  3. Explore more inspiring STEM stories from history
    In 2014, the White House launched an online initiative called The Untold History of Women in Science and Technology to increase the visibility of women in STEM fields. The archived website features profiles of women who helped to shape modern science—including Katherine Johnson of Hidden Figures fame. Women from the Obama Administration narrate their stories. Learn more about these remarkable leading ladies of STEM here!
  4. Encourage girls to become SWENexters
    SWENext is a way for students to become part of the Society of Women Engineers. Membership is free and any girl 13 or older may join. Girls under 13 are welcome too as long as a parent acts as the primary contact. More information, including downloadable resources for both families and educators, can be found here.
  5. Get social
    Here’s a list of ten online STEM communities you can follow for more STEM insights and inspiration:

@GirlsAddUp

@GirlsInStem

@GirlsWhoCode

@DIYGirls

@goldieblox

@MillionWMentors

@ngcproject

@STEMforHer

@SheHeroes

@TechGirls

Jennifer Agustin

Jennifer Agustin

VP of Marketing at DreamBox Learning
Jennifer Agustin is the Vice President of Marketing at DreamBox Learning. As a marketer – and a mom – she’s passionate about student achievement and ensuring all kids reach their math potential with DreamBox, including her own! She also enjoys reading, cooking, and hiking with her family.
Jennifer Agustin