Marvel Girls in Stem Mentor Contest: The value and challenge of role models
I’m glad to hear that Marvel wants to get involved in drawing more women into STEM. The involvement of Natalie Portman is interesting, but also challenging. There are these interesting studies showing that role models of women in STEM can trigger a kind of stereotype threat: “That can never be me, so I’d better not even try.” They’ll have to be careful in how they frame her involvement in science. Since I’ve been thinking about live coding, I’ve been wondering more about the importance of seeing embodiments of STEM workers that are otherwise invisible. Perhaps Marvel can provide that through this effort.
Marvel has announced the Ultimate Mentor Adventure, part mentor program, part contest, that gives American girls in grades 9-12 the resources to find and interview professional women in science, technology, engineering, and math, and then rewards them for doing it.
Natalie Portman has always been a consistent voice for greater screentime and opportunities behind the scenes for female characters and real women in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it doesn’t surprise me at all to learn that she’s the first face you see on the Ultimate Mentor Adventure’s explanatory video. Portman talks about her character Jane Foster, an astrophysicist, amid finished and behind the scenes clips of Jane in Thor: The Dark World, and, while the bombastic music of the trailers plays, she says, “the truth is, I really do love science. And the role gave me an amazing opportunity to explore science in all its possibilities.”