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Space Blog

Hidden Figures

New film (and Anita Bernie) inspire girls to get into STEM.

It’s been an exciting time for Anita Bernie just lately; recently promoted at SSTL to Director of Spacecraft Platforms and Demonstration Missions, she has also found time to get involved with a campaign, led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, to improve diversity in the Engineering sector. 

UK engineering and science are still overwhelmingly peopled by older, white men – only 6% of professional engineers in the UK are black or minority ethnic, and the Academy leads the pan-engineering effort to improve diversity in the sector.  The Academy recently commissioned research on graduate destinations, which shows ethnicity is still a barrier for some and Anita was interviewed by the Guardian for a piece about these findings that went to print in December.

Anita miked up in the local BBC studio in Caversham, joining the discussions with Radio 4 Today programme.

This week, Anita took part in a discussion on Radio Four’s Today programme, along with Bola Fatimilehin from the Academy, to talk about what needs to be done to encourage more girls into STEM careers, and a new film, Hidden Figures, which tells the untold story of three brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history. 

Anita studied Aerospace Engineering at Kingston University, which was a very male-dominated course and quite different from her previous education at an all-girls’ school!  She has worked at Airbus, and a telecoms company, and has worked for SSTL for a total of 13 years over two different employment periods.  Anita says “SSTL is very meritocratic and I have had a very positive experience in terms of career progression, though juggling work and home-life as a mum of three is a big challenge!”
Anita was also invited to attend the premiere of the new film, which was presented by the Manchester United Foundation and 20th Century Fox at Old Trafford to an invited audience, including girls and their female teachers from local schools.  

Anita joined a panel of inspirational women to talk about their careers and to participate in the Q&A session between the panel and the audience, before the start of the film. 

Anita (foreground, taking the pic) with clockwise, Hazel Macnamarra, Karen Holford, Elspeth Finch, Rachel Riley, Ginny Buckley and Janet Quinn. Click to enlarge.

Anita responding to a question during the Q&A session

Anita chatting to students attending the premiere about her career path.

Hidden Figures is the incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.  The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big. The film has been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar – thinking about a career in a STEM-related field?  Go see it!

Watch the trailer.






27 January 20170 Comments1 Comment

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