Over 150 female pupils aged 11-16 from Foundation partner schools across Greater Manchester were invited to the exclusive event at the Odeon, Trafford Centre, after showing a great interest in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects in school.
Hidden Figures is based on the true stories of three African-American women who worked for NASA and helped to provide essential mathematical data needed to launch the programme's first successful space missions.
The film has been credited with inspiring more young women to engage with STEM subjects, as currently only 1 in 5 people working in core Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths fields is female. This event hopes to inspire the future generation of women, in order to banish stereotypes that still exist decades after the era in which Hidden Figures is set.
The private screening for Manchester United Foundation pupils is the first time Hidden Figures has been screened in the UK. The event also included a Q&A session with a panel of inspirational women from the world of STEM, hosted by Foundation trustee and broadcaster Ginny Buckley.
“Even if one girl walks away from here and says, ‘Right I can do this; I can go and have a career in STEM and I can make a difference to the world’, then our job is done and we’d be absolutely thrilled,” said Ginny. “I hope we’ve encouraged them to stay on that STEM path and to keep asking questions. And of course we hope the movie inspires them to realise that barriers don’t matter – knock those barriers down; you can do anything you want as a young girl.”
TV presenter and maths expert Rachel Riley joined the panel, which also included Anita Bernie, Director of Spacecraft Platform and Demonstration Missions at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited; Elspeth Finch, founder and CEO of Indigo&; Professor Karen Holford, Pro Vice-Chancellor in Physical Sciences and Engineering at Cardiff University; and Hazel Macnamara, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
Rachel said, “I think it’s brilliant that Manchester United Foundation actually gets involved and goes into schools – they don’t just say the right things, they make things happen. The girls today have received an opportunity to attend a UK premiere of a really uplifting and inspirational film and they’re getting to speak to women who are working the industry and the girls can aspire to be like. We’re not just talking about football, we’re talking about maths, science and trying to improve people’s lives on a very real basis and I think it’s brilliant.”
Ebonie, 14 from New Charter Academy in Ashton-under-Lyne, was particularly inspired by the event. She said, “It’s great for young girls to watch this film to learn that it’s okay to follow your dreams. I love science, it’s one of my favourite subjects, and I really want to become a marine biologist, which has a lot to do with STEM.
“Having the Foundation work in our school is really interesting and fun as we get opportunities to go on trips and learn new things to help you make decisions for your future.”
Hidden Figures is released in UK cinemas on 17th February 2017.