By Krithika Pennathur
When I first watched Hidden Figures, I was in awe at how three black women helped launch Friendship 7 into space. Dealing simultaneously with racism and sexism, these women were able to prove their mathematical intelligence. Katherine Johnson was the only woman in a room of men. Mary Jackson had to fight in court to achieve her dream of becoming an engineer. Dorothy Vaughn became the first African-American woman to supervise a staff at NASA.
The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) conducts a diversity survey, annually. Women comprised only a third of the news desk. Only 37% of all supervisors were women and 13% were minorities. 17% of employees at newspapers are minorities. These numbers have been higher than they ever were in the past, but they also prove to show that we have a long way to go. (http://asne.org/blog_home.asp?Display=2153)
This semester I am taking women and journalism. We spent the first week talking about how even though women are getting more journalism degrees, several studies showed they are still not published as much as men are. There is also a lack of women sources being used in research for articles. When you look at the history of journalism, women were often subject to writing the “women’s pages.” Despite a growth in women attaining jobs in journalism, there is still not enough women on news desk. In current day, women aren’t considered fairly to get beats. The prized beats almost always go to men. In class, we also touched on the struggles of minority women coming into journalism. They aren’t encouraged as much to take opportunities. This is the same in the STEM field, with the exception of Asian women.
As a woman of color who is has liberal arts majors and STEM minors, the lack of representation appalls me. Often times, I am the only minority woman in the classroom in my English classrooms. My perspective is very different than most. Sometimes, my perspectives are attacked and other times they are tokenized (as though I can represent the thoughts of all Indian women). In the STEM classrooms, I will admit, there are a lot of Indians and Asians in the introductory classes, but as you take higher -level classes, there are a lot less women in those classrooms.
The lack of representation of women, especially women of color, in film, STEM, and in journalism is absolutely sickening. Whether it be in the field of STEM or in the field of journalism, I believe that there isn’t equality for women in the professional field. Furthermore, I believe that we aren’t telling the stories of women as much as we should be. After some reflection on the movie, I wondered, why aren’t we making more movies about contributions of women? Where is the representation? Why should they be ‘hidden figures?’
Krithika Pennathur is a sophomore English Writing (nonfiction track) and History major pursuing minors in Chemistry and Statistics and certificates in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies & Public and Professional Writing at the University of Pittsburgh.