The movie Hidden Figures, which has just opened in the UK, tells the story of three African-American women who played key roles at NASA in the space race of the 1960s. Katherine Johnson devised the maths that made sure the first manned space flights would return safely to Earth. Mary Jackson had to petition a judge for permission to study engineeringat a segregated ‘whites only’ school and became NASA’s first black female engineer. These women broke racial and gender barriers.
This was half a century ago, but barriers persist.
A great deal of effort has gone into encouraging girls into traditionally male subjects such as physics, engineering and mathematics. But the attitudes of men, women, boys and girls
themselves continue to stand in the way. Studies have shown that, even when equally qualified, girls are much less likely than boys to study ‘hard’ sciences to an advanced level and even less to become physicists and engineers. Our latest analysis, funded by the (more…)