“If they can see it, they can be it.”
Actress Geena Davis, who founded the Geena Davis Institute to combat gender issues in Hollywood, constantly uses this phrase to highlight the undeniable fact that we are influenced by what we see on the big screen, and how simple it would be to inspire more young women to take up STEM careers by literally just seeing them in movies.
The monkey-see-monkey-do effect of movies as been proven in a negative sense time and time again, as girls try to emulate the impossible figures of sexy superstars playing the romantic leads in their favorite films.
What if, instead, they were inspired to study harder in math and science to try to be like their favorite bada** character in a sci-fi movie? Well according to Davis, and leading experts, this probably would be the case – if only Hollywood made more movies with STEM related female leads.
STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, has long been a ‘boys club,’ in the real world and on-screen – but some of our most beloved female leads boast impressive degrees that are important to note in a world where many directors allow the only defining characteristic of a smart woman to be wearing glasses…
Below are ten of the most famous and important STEM female leads of the 20th and 21st century.
1. Doctors: Mindy Kaling & Natalie Portman No Strings Attached
2. Epidemic Doctor: Kate Winslet Contagion
3. Medical Engineer: Sandra Bullock Gravity
4. Xenobotanist: Sigourney Weaver Avatar
5. Astrophysicist: Jodie Foster Contact
6. Astrophysicist: Natalie Portman Thor
7. Biologist: Anne Hathaway Interstellar
8. Paleobotanist: Laura Dern Jurassic Park
9. Astrophysicist: Kelly McGillis Top Gun
10. Meteorologist: Helen Hunt Twister
*Honorary Mention: Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter
Though Granger didn’t yet have her degree, having the one true female lead of a 7-part series be valued for her intelligence and academic work that never wavered is an extremely important character trait for young girls to witness.
A Final Note:
While this list of kicka** women is an exceptional group to note in a world where we more commonly see females fixing make-up than mathematical equations, I’d be remiss not to remind us all that there is still a long way to go. Anyone notice how every single female listed is white (save Mindy Kaling)? One step forward for womankind is not the same step for every woman, and we often accept white feminism as a universal move towards equality when that is simply not the case. Thankfully, a new film is about to be released that tells the story of three female African-American women who helped put the first man into space. They faced double the oppression as black women during the civil rights era, and we need to see more of their stories told on the big screen.
Check out the trailer below: