'Hidden Figures' inspires nearly 200 girls in Seattle to pursue STEM career dreams

SEATTLE - For nearly four hours Monday, while their friends and classmates enjoyed the day off from school, 180 girls packed a downtown movie theater for inspiration from a Hollywood blockbuster and motivation from women successful in their science-based fields.

At the end of the nearly four-hour event, which included watching the film “Hidden Figures,” the girls – students who range from fifth through 12th grades – walked out of the theater. They clutched their popcorn and soda and bubbled with excitement about their goals of pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

“I really like math, science is like my favorite subject at school,” said Diana Garcia, a sophomore at Academy of Citizenship and Empowerment High School in SeaTac.

Second-grader Audrey Walter, who attends John Hay Elementary in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, is too young to be an official member of Techbridge, the group that sponsored the event, but that didn’t stop her excitement.

“I want to do better at division,” she exclaimed.

For more than two years, Techbridge has worked with pre-teen and teenage girls attending low-income schools in the Seattle-area. The group, founded in Oakland 17 years ago, encourages girls to connect with STEM studies and careers.

“They are learning women can do anything and we already have,” said Callista Chen, executive director of greater Seattle Techbridge.

Chen said this is the first time Techbridge has centered one of their events around a major Hollywood film. But, she said, the film was a perfect fit for their members.

“Hidden Figures” focuses on three African-American women who helped the United States and NASA get to space in the 1960s. The women faced excruciating racism and sexism.

Chen said donations paid for all of the girls’ movie tickets. She said the bulk of the attendees hail from Highline Public Schools.

After the film, panelists from Boeing, Blue Origin and other companies sat at the front of the theater and talked about their experiences working in STEM careers.

“That’s pretty awesome to be able to come up with different ideas and new technology on a regular basis,” said one woman who works at Boeing.

A woman who works at Blue Origin told the group she started her career at NASA when she was in high school.

“There are so many jobs that you can have that you can enjoy with a STEM background,” she said.

Paula Brown, who attended with her daughter, Abigail, called the event amazing and was inspired herself by “Hidden Figures.”

“It was amazing, an amazing opportunity for the girls, amazing to just see the leadership that women had in the 1960s today we take for granted.”

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