The Search for Hidden Figures: A New Scholarship Contest for Females in STEM

By Megan (Weyrauch) Johnson on December 4, 2016

Though on its way to improving, female leadership in STEM is largely underrepresented, and three companies are joining together to try to fix this.

PepsiCo and 21st Century Fox, in partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), recently announced “The Search for Hidden Figures,” a new scholarship contest designed to help uncover the next generation of female leaders in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The contest supports today’s emerging STEM visionaries by awarding over $200,000 in scholarships and other prizes to over 20 winners.

According to a recent press release, this program is inspired by the anticipated film “Hidden Figures,” in theaters Jan. 6. Produced by Pharrell Williams, this film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons. “Hidden Figures” tells the “untold” story of three African American female NASA mathematicians (Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson) during the Space Race of the 1960s.

Online entries are now being accepted through December 10, 2016 on, with semi-finalists selected in mid-December. Semi-finalists will provide a video submission, and top video submissions will be judged by a notable panel of judges including Pharrell Williams, Donna Gigliotti (“Hidden Figures” producer), Fox 2000 President Elizabeth Gabler and President of NYAS, Ellis Rubinstein.

Two grand prize winners will be announced on January 12, 2017, and will receive access to NYAS STEM skills training materials and programs, up to $200,000 in scholarships and a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, FL.

“At 21CF, we believe in the power of storytelling to inspire the next generation of talent to dream bigger and unlock their full potential, and through The Search for Hidden Figures contest we are excited to give young women across the country the encouragement to pursue those dreams,” said Lachlan Murdoch, Executive Chairman of 21st Century Fox.

PepsiCo and 21st Century Fox are supporting the campaign with a national TV and digital media campaign featuring Taraji P. Henson to encourage participation, as well as messages of encouragement from the film’s actresses and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from “Hidden Figures” on the contest’s website.

In an effort to further discussion around STEM, PepsiCo will launch a collection of STEM mobile and web games, quizzes and challenges for students and fans of the film to test their skills. PepsiCo’s goal is to play a role in inspiring the next generation of STEM leaders, as the company hopes to create nutritionally advantaged foods and beverages and to increase production while reducing its environmental footprint — goals reliant upon STEM leadership.

PepsiCo also recently announced a commitment to improve the lives of 12.5 million women and girls by 2025 through its Performance with Purpose goals; PepsiCo is particularly committed to expanding and encouraging STEM opportunities among female students and professionals. Prior to the Search for Hidden Figures contest, PepsiCo served as the founding chair of the STEM Innovation Taskforce, a coalition of more than 25 industry, government, educator and NGO partners who work to develop and implement programs to help solve the STEM shortfall.

“The ‘Hidden Figures’ story is being told at a time when advances in each of these fields are creating unprecedented opportunities to develop solutions for many of the world’s biggest challenges,” said Mehmood Khan, PepsiCo’s Vice Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer, Global Research and Development. ”PepsiCo is proud to actively support the discovery of STEM talent and the development of STEM skills in the workforce.”

An independent, not-for-profit organization driving innovative solutions to society’s challenges by advancing scientific research, education and policy since 1817, the New York Academy of Sciences includes more than 20,000 members in 100 countries. Follow the organization on Twitter @NYASciences. 21st Century Fox is home to a global portfolio of cable and broadcasting networks and properties, spanning six continents across the globe.

Hello! I am currently serving as the Director of News/Managing Editor for Uloop News. I recruit writers, edit many articles, manage interns, and lead our National Team. When I'm not writing or editing, I love to take part in community theater, read, and enjoy the outdoors with my husband Kevin. I have a Bachelor's degree in English and Professional Writing from Ohio State University and an M.Ed. in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Wright State University. If you ever have questions or just want to chat, email me at

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