Among the celeb-filled and comically irreverent ads that aired on Super Bowl Sunday, one stood out for its important message to the next generation of scientists, computer programmers, biochemists, web developers and other STEM professionals.
NBC’s Today Show debuted a public service ad (PSA) featuring the show’s anchors to encourage girls, non-binary youth and trans youth to pursue their interests in STEM. Part of the She Can STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) campaign, the 30-second spot was created by Deloitte Digital together with Ad Council and If/Then.
It opens with Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb in the Today Show studio saying bye to their virtual show guests – Karina Popovich, chief executive of Makers for Change; Mitu Khandaker, chief executive of Glow Up Games; and Tiffany Kelly, founder and chief executive of Curastory. All three women are STEM role models from the AAAS If/Then Ambassadors Program.
After a rueful Guthrie says, “I wish they had those cool kinds of careers when we were growing up,” we’re taken back in time to her classroom in the ‘70s where she and fellow anchors Kotb, Al Roker, Craig Melvin and Carson Daly are students. When the teacher asks what everyone wants to be when they grow up, young female classmates name careers you can pursue through STEM, with responses ranging from “I want to make immersive video games” to “I want to analyze data from the cloud.”
Like the spot’s closing message notes, STEM has come a long way. Still, women make up half of the total college-educated workforce in the US yet they only account for 27 percent of the STEM workforce. Research shows that many girls lose interest in STEM as early as middle school, a path that continues through high school and college and ultimately leads to an underrepresentation of women in STEM careers.
“If you’re watching television and you see role models who look like you doing groundbreaking work, you begin to believe, `If she can do it, then I can do it,” said Lyda Hill, founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the If/Then Initiative.
Since Ad Council launched She Can STEM in 2018, the campaign has aimed to dispel stereotypes that discourage girls from joining STEM careers and inspire them to explore and stay in STEM. By sharing stories of role models who have influenced technologies that impact our lives today and providing educational resources to kickstart their path in STEM, Ad Council helps girls see themselves in these industries and prepares them for their own STEM journeys.
NBCUniversal donated airtime for the spot to air twice on Super Bowl. Before and after game day, the Today Show featured the PSA in two segments, including a behind-the-scenes “making of” segment with the anchors, and a segment with Mitu Khandaker discussing her experience as a STEM role model and the importance of women in STEM.
The spot will be distributed to NBCUniversal stations nationwide for future airings throughout 2022. NBCUniversal is also featuring content about the PSA and the importance of STEM for girls on today.com.