In February of 2014, actress, writer and science enthusiast Taryn O’Neill turned off the debate between scientist Bill Nye and anti-evolutionist Ken Ham with disgust. She was so infuriated by the support shown to Ham’s creationist views that she wrote an impassioned blog post about the need for science literacy and tweeted it out into the ether. Her unique call to action? That the least expected yet potentially most effective champions of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) could be… actresses. The post and Taryn’s hashtag #ActressesforSTEM went viral. Actress, writer, producer Tamara Krinsky and actress, writer, singer Gia Mora rallied for the cause, and our group, Scirens, was born.
At the early stages of Scirens (a play on Screen Sirens for Science), we debated how to best approach our mission and decided to use the resources we already had available to us - our social media accounts and our passion for science. We live tweeted the entire season of FOX’s re-imagined Cosmos, shared STEM news, amplified the work of professional science journalists and educators and celebrated the creativity that drives both the arts and the sciences. We also championed female STEM characters on TV and in film, all while continuing to pursue our own on-camera careers.
The birth of Scirens dovetailed with a larger cultural moment of examination of and encouragement for women in both entertainment and in STEM. From Jennifer Lawrence’s open letter about the male/female pay gap, to Geena Davis’ call for gender equality on the screen, to the public call for more female mentors in science, it seemed the ethos of Scirens was in the air. Motivated by this, we embarked upon the next phase of our mission: to develop TV series fueled by STEM storylines and characters. Our goal: put inspiring, diverse, and multi-dimensional female characters on screen who would help galvanize curiosity about science, technology, engineering and math amongst the general population, as well as encourage the next generation of women in STEM.
We believe that stories can change the world.
It was kismet then, that we would get an email from the L’Oréal Foundation asking us to sign their For Women in Science Manifesto. “Wow!” we thought. “How wonderful that a beauty company is celebrating women in STEM!” We support the research funding they do, the female scientists they highlight and the technology they champion. And we applaud their social media initiatives to share this work. The L’Oréal Foundation is creating a new story of women in STEM.
We signed the Manifesto with gusto.
Now more than ever, we need these stories out in the world because of the imperative for strong, intelligent role models for young girls - role models who support progress, innovation, inclusion and equality. Role models who encourage critical thinking and curiosity about the world around them. Role models who both demystify as well champion the science and technology that make our 21st century lives - and our future - possible.
Sadly, the media has more often than not portrayed female STEM professionals as one of several limited stereotypes: the loner coder, the nerdy lab geek or the sexy science babe. But being a woman in science isn’t one or the other - you can love nail polish and neuroscience! We wish more girls knew about Hedy Lamarr, the glamorous actress who co-invented a technology that became the foundation for WiFi. She’s a perfect example of the Scirens’ place at the intersection of science and entertainment and the kind of empowered woman we want to see more of on screen.
We believe that the L’Oréal Foundation and the beauty industry can help change the narrative of women in STEM by revealing the exciting science and innovative work that goes into creating the products that can help us look and feel our best. By doing so, they will champion the future biologists and chemists of the world! And that is truly beautiful.
We all have an opportunity to show that beauty is indeed more than skin deep, and we’re excited to dig in.
Your Sisters in Science,
Gia, Taryn & Tamara
Photos crédits: Elisabeth Caren