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Women and STEAM fields


Historically, girls and women have been discouraged from pursuing STEAM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) due to widely held social attitudes about those fields as male domains. Beginning alarmingly early in their education, girls are steered away from STEAM opportunities, limiting their early experience. This in turn curtails their later access to these fields as adults. Despite the poor odds and relative lack of visible role models, girls and women regularly make substantial contributions to STEAM fields. The titles in this guide celebrate women’s achievements in the face of considerable challenges, among them oppression through imperialism, patriarchy, racism, classism, and ableist bias. These films highlight individual women’s stories, honoring the strength and courage required to achieve their dreams. Representing both fictional and factual scenarios, these titles highlight women from a variety of different backgrounds and how their accomplishments have shaped STEAM fields through the years.

Women and Media

L to R: Big Hero SixContactAkeelah and the BeeArise. All images courtesy except Arise, courtesy Alexander Street Press, 11 March 2021,

L to R: Marie Curie: The Woman Behind the PrizeDonna Haraway: Storytelling for Earthly SurvivalLeading Women JapanG.I. Jane. All images courtesy Alexander Street Press except G.I. Jane,, 11 March 2021,

L to R: GhostbustersGravityCode: Debugging the Gender GapMakers: Women Who Make America. All images courtesy

L to R: 20 Feet From StardomThe RunawaysHidden Figures. All images courtesy

IUB Streaming Titles

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Arise (Dir. Lori Joyce & Candice Orlando, 80 min., 2012) 

On every continent, women are taking the lead to protect and restore the natural environment, and are empowering others to respect the earth. Arise presents the stories of a diverse group of 13 women in five countries who have initiated solution-oriented environmental projects in their communities, towns, and villages.

These women are engaged in a variety of innovative efforts profiled in the film: replanting trees in Kenya, conserving biodiversity in India, preserving sacred Native lands, protecting the rainforest in Ecuador, building more sustainable local communities, transforming food through urban agriculture, creating safe outdoor places to play, training women to build and install solar lights, and organizing to combat climate change, among others.

Arise gives voice to these powerful women, and weaves together their inspiring stories with stunning images, poetry and music by well-known writers and musicians, including Alice Walker and Michael Franti. Through these hopeful examples and new models, the women in the film challenge our current way of thinking about the environment, and encourage a shift in values to find a different, healthier way to view our relationship to the earth.

Donna Haraway: Storytelling for Earthly Survival (81 min., 2017) Feminist thinker and historian of science Donna Haraway is best known as the author of two revolutionary works: the essay "The Cyborg Manifesto" and the book Primate Visions. Both set out to upend well-established "common sense" categories: breaking down the boundaries among humans, animals, and machines while challenging gender essentialism; and questioning the underlying assumptions of humanity's fascination with primates through a post-colonial lens. The film features Haraway in a playful and engaging exploration of her life, influences, and ideas. Haraway is a passionate and discursive storyteller, and the film is structured around a series of discussions held in the California home she helped build by hand, on subjects including the capitalism and the anthropocene (a term she uses but finds troubling), science fiction writing as philosophical text, kinship relations, the roles of storytelling and Catholicism in her upbringing, humans and dogs, the suppression of women's writing, the surprisingly fascinating history of orthodontic aesthetics, and the need for new post-colonial and post-patriarchal narratives. It is a remarkably impressive range, from a thinker with a nimble and curious mind. Haraway and filmmaker Fabrizio Terranova (who we hear but don't see) are clearly at ease with each other, giving the conversations—which are punctuated by images of artwork and quirky animation—a casual, intimate feel. Terranova makes playful use of green screens to illustrate Haraway's words, or to comment on them. As Haraway discusses storytelling, we see an image of her in the background, writing. When the conversation turns to her own unorthodox personal relationships and the oppressive power of heteronormativity, the redwoods out her window are replaced by a crisp suburban street. Underwater invertebrates, one of Haraway's fascinations, float by in the background of a room.

Ghana Girl’s STEM Academy (23 min., 2017) At the African Science Academy in Accra, expectations and ambitions are high. Follow the exceptional stories of young women who are breaking barriers within the world of STEM.

Gifted (102 min., 2017) Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising a child prodigy—his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace)—in a coastal town in Florida. Frank's plans for a normal school life for Mary are foiled when the seven-year-old's mathematical abilities come to the attention of Frank's formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Frank and Mary. Octavia Spencer plays Roberta, Frank and Mary's landlady and best friend. Jenny Slate is Mary's teacher, Bonnie, a young woman whose concern for her student develops into a connection with her uncle as well.

Leading Women, Episode 38: Carol Tomé/Blanca Treviño (12 min., 2015) Profiles of two women in leadership positions in technology: the CEO of a leading IT company in Latin America and the CFO of Home Depot.

Leading Women Japan (23 min., 2017) CNN focuses on five women who are taking Japan forward, making a difference in their respective fields and acting as role models for future generations to come. A country of finesse and tradition, with innovation at the heart of its soul, Japan’s impact has been felt all over the world. But as the country deals with a falling birthrate and maintains a restrictive immigration policy, some say it is the women who will play the most crucial role in its future. In this special 30-minute program, CNN features Goldman Sachs vice chair Kathy Matsui, award-winning sushi chef Yumi Chiba, world renowned conductor Tomomi Nishimoto, Japan’s first ethical jewelry designer Natsuko Shiraki and three-time wrestling Olympic gold medalist, Saori Yoshida.

Makers: Women Who Make America, Episode 1, Volume 1: Awakening (58 min. 2013) Women Who Make America tells the remarkable story of the most sweeping social revolution in American history, as women have asserted their rights to a full and fair share of political power, economic opportunity, and personal autonomy in the last 50 years. It's a revolution that has unfolded in public and private, in courts and Congress, in the boardroom and the bedroom, changing not only what the world expects from women, but what women expect from themselves. Makers brings this story to life with priceless archival treasures and poignant, often funny interviews with those who led the fight, those who opposed it, and those first generations to benefit from its success. Trailblazing women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, Gloria Steinem, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Linda Alvarado share their memories, as do countless women who challenged the status quo in industries from coal-mining to medicine. Makers captures with music, humor, and the voices of the women who lived through these turbulent times the dizzying joy, aching frustration, and ultimate triumph of a movement that turned America upside-down.

Marie Curie: The Woman Behind the Mind (Dir. Alana Cash, 53 min., 2002) A portrait of the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in the sciences, the Physics Prize for the discovery of radium and the Chemistry Prize for creating the process used to separate radium and polonium out of pitchblend.

Reshma Saujani: A Case Study on Women in STEM (1'34", 2015) In this excerpt from the series, Reshma Saujani is a lawyer, politician, and founder of the tech organization, Girls Who Code. In this clip, she reflects on starting Girls Who Code. Find the full set of clips from the case study here.

Women Entrepreneurs Making a Difference (24 min., 1998) The focus of this documentary is the unique entrepreneurial qualities that women possess and the spirit with which they face the challenges of their personal and business lives. The four women profiled are Canadian, of different races, cultures and ages, and representing a cross section of businesses. All the women are self made; none have inherited their businesses. Starting with very little, their vision, their wits and their hard work have overcome setbacks and helped them keep going. There is a commonality among these women entrepreneurs in the way they manage their businesses, consider their employees as "family", reward hard work, and integrate their personal values into the corporate culture. The women are in disparate businesses. One turned a derelict hotel into a first class resort; one exports food to poor countries; one has an international software training company. The last runs a publishing empire from her home. Their businesses gross between one and twenty-seven million dollars. This documentary will dispel the myth that women entrepreneurs operate only small businesses, often in the retail sector, or cottage industries which are not regarded as serious business. It will be an inspiration to other women.

IUB DVD/Video Films

During Covid, only IU faculty, staff and students can borrow materials from Media Services with a valid IU crimson card.  Face masks are required. Be sure to check with Media Services for hours. VHS titles are housed off-site at ALF, and can be requested via IUCAT. Suggested keywords in IUCAT: Civil Rights, Black History, African Americans. Limit to film & video, dvd/videodisc, Bloomington campus.

20 Feet From Stardom (Dir. Morgan Neville, 91 min., 2014) They are the voices behind the greatest rock, pop and R&B hits of all time, but no one knows their names. Now, in this award-winning documentary, director Morgan Neville shines the spotlight on the untold stories of such legendary background (backup) singers as Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, and more. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, vintage live performances, and interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, and Bette Midler.

Akeelah and the bee (Dir. Doug Atchison, 112 min., 2006) Eleven-year-old Akeelah Anderson's life is not easy: her father is dead, her mom ignores her, her brother runs with the local gangbangers. She is a smart girl, but her environment threatens to strangle her aspirations. Responding to a threat by her school's principal, Akeelah decides to participate in a spelling bee to avoid detention for her many absences. Much to her surprise and embarrassment, she wins. Her principal asks her to seek coaching from Dr. Larabee, an English professor, for the more prestigious regional bee.

Big Hero Six (Dir. Don Hall & Chris Williams, 102 min., 2014) Robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada learns to harness his genius, thanks to his brilliant brother Tadashi and their like-minded friends: adrenaline junkie Go Go Tamago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon, and fanboy Fred. When a devastating turn of events catapults them into the midst of a dangerous plot unfolding in the streets of San Fransokyo, Hiro turns to his closest companion, a robot named Baymax, and transforms the group into a band of high-tech heroes determined to solve the mystery.

Code: Debugging the Gender Gap (Dir. Robin Hauser Reynolds, 129 min., 2014) Tech jobs are growing three times faster than our colleges are producing computer science graduates. By 2020, there will be one million unfilled software engineering jobs in the USA. Through compelling interviews, artistic animation and clever flashpoints in popular culture, CODE documentary examines the reasons why more girls and people of color are not seeking opportunities in computer science and explores how cultural mindsets, stereotypes, educational hurdles and sexism all play roles in this national crisis. Expert voices from the worlds of tech, psychology, science, and education are intercut with inspiring stories of women who are engaged in the fight to challenge complacency in the tech industry and have their voices heard. CODE aims to inspire change in themselves in the field of coding.

Contact (Dir. Robert Zemeckis, 150 min., 1997) After an astronomer discovers communication emanating from the star Vega, she leads an international team in deciphering it, and travels through space to contact the senders of the message.

Ghostbusters (Dir. Paul Feig, 117 min. 2016) Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.

G.I. Jane (Dir. Ridley Scott, 125 min., 1998) Lieutenant O'Neil is the first woman ever given the opportunity to earn a place in the armed forces' most highly skilled combat unit--the elite Navy SEALs. But the already brutal rigors of training camp turn into an unimaginable test of courage and determination once it becomes clear that no one--powerful politicians, top military brass or her male Navy SEAL teammates--wants her to succeed.

Gravity (Dir. Alfonso Cuarón, 91 min., 2014) A heart-pounding thriller that will draw viewers into the infinite and merciless realm of deep space. A brilliant medical engineer, Dr. Ryan Stone, is on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut and acting space commander Matt Kowalski. Then disaster strikes the shuttle, leaving Stone and Kowalski completely out of touch with Earth. With little oxygen and energy left, how will they survive?

Hidden Figures (Dir. Theodore Melfi, 126 min., 2017) As the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Based on the unbelievably true life stories of three of these women, known as "human computers", we follow these women as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history's greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return. Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.

The Runaways (Dir. Floria Sigismondi, 107 min., 2010) With the success of their all-girl teenage rock band The Runaways, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie's friendship begins to unwind after Currie decides to leave the group.

Top Secret Rosies: the secret computers of World War II (Dir. LeAnn Erickson, 57 min., 2010) In 1942, a secret U.S. military program was launched to recruit women to the war effort. But unlike the efforts to recruit Rosie the Riveter to the factory, this clandestine search targeted female mathematicians who would become human 'computers' for the U.S. Army. From the bombing of Axis Europe to the assaults on Japanese strongholds, women worked around-the-clock six days a week, creating ballistics tables that proved crucial to Allied success. Rosie made the weapons, but the female computers made them accurate. When the first electronic computer (ENIAC) was developed to aid the Army's calculation efforts, six of these women were tapped to become its first programmers.


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