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Girlbusters: Fighting Against Gender Bias for Women in STEM

Orginally posted on Huffington Post ImpactX.

Four beloved fictional characters were recently recast to runaround fake New York in fake jobs chasing really cool, CGI-created fake ghosts – and the Internet lost its mind.

Just to be clear, America: no real male scientists were harmed in the filming of this (yet to be made) movie. Yet these four scientists, and the women chosen to portray them, are facing real backlash over their recent job announcements. 

Really people? You know it’s just a movie right? And the EXTREMELY funny women (Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones) who were cast to replace the immensely talented originals are brilliant! While some would argue it is the idea of a remake or recasting a beloved franchise that is stirring up the Twitterverse – I call BS. The 2015 Golden Globes alone had two Batmans win awards with another one in attendance, and two Incredible Hulks nominated! (And do any of us really know Eric Bana wasn’t there as well?)

If this is how we react when women dare to replace men in movies, what chance do real women stand in actual science and technology positions?

Turns out, very little.

In a recent STEM study conducted by the University of California's Hastings College of the Law, a whopping 100% of women of color interviewed for the study said they've experienced gender bias, compared to 93% of white women. (Sorry, Leslie Jones, things just got real for you,) But 93% for white women is hardly a win.

Furthermore, the report shows that when math skills were identical, men were more likely to be hired for a job than women. As a woman working for a math education nonprofit, that makes my blood boil.

Because of this bias, even the small percentage of women (12%) who pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields often leave – only three percent remain working in STEM 10 years later. If famous actresses bear this kind of public pressure over pretending to be scientists, imagine how it might feel for women in STEM fields to be the actual sole female scientist in a lab.

I have addressed this topic before. By supporting this one remake of a classic comedy, we can accomplish 3 of the 9 reasons I listed for why we need a STEM revolution for girls:

1)      There are significantly fewer female role models and mentors in STEM fields than many other occupations. Sure they are fictional characters. But how many Atticus Finches were born after To Kill A Mockingbird? How many young women relate to Katniss Everdeen? Young people find role models in fictional characters. Every day. 

2)     It just ROCKS to see strong, brilliant women succeed  and support and encourage young girls to do the same. Seeing these amazing actresses succeed in a male-dominated franchise does nothing to diminish the men who originated the roles – and everything for girls who dream of breaking down barriers!

3)     A full 80% of the fastest growing industries and occupations require a mastery of math and science. Now we can’t say for SURE we are never going to need Proton Packs or a Bacharach Sniffer 300 to safely roam Manhattan, can we? I for one will sleep better knowing someone has the know-how to create them.

So get it together people. It’s just a movie. Let this be one that encourages young women they can do and be anything. Even a fake scientist! Because if women continue to leave real STEM careers at this rate, we are all going to have to continue the fight against gender bias without a Proton Pack. And worse, America is going to face a huge gap in skilled STEM workers.

Then who you gonna call?

So go do your thing, ladies! And if you still need a Janine, you know where to find me.

Click Here to Get Involved


Photo source: Sony Pictures 


Janine Ingram

About the Author

Janine Ingram was the Vice President of Social Impact Partnerships at MIND Research Institute.


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