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Diverse STEM Reading: a Layer Cake of Problems

Discover some of the diverse STEM books, documentaries, podcasts, and other items available from the ISU Library and on the web, and learn how to find more of these materials. This guide was made to accompany a 2021 ISCORE presentation.


The film industry is very white which means that independent films and documentaries are often not as easy to access as feature films or documentaries by famous, and majority white, creators. Another unfortunate facet with films and documentaries is the films and series are available through streaming services are constantly changing due to expiring and new deals with content providers. This is true for both personal and the library's subscription services. For these reasons self publishing video platforms such as YouTube are one of the best places to find diversity in STEM on video.

Some, but not all, of the videos and channels on this page have captions or transcripts.

Online Video Channels and Series

YouTube, and similar video hosting sites, are a great way to find first-hand accounts of scientists and engineers of all identities because they are self-publishing platforms.

The embedded video is a playlist showcasing the variety of content available on YouTube - TED talks, presentations, personal accounts - featuring diverse STEM practitioners and their experiences. The list of YouTube channels following the video is illustrative of the content and creators available and is not exhaustive.


Documentaries are another way to access and incorporate diverse voices in STEM. Like publishing, the film industry is very white which means the most diversity is not found in mainstream features. Independent films and documentaries have better representation but are not always easy to access and often cost more to obtain than feature films or documentaries by famous, and majority white, creators.

Kanopy (ISU login required) is currently ISU's best source for documentaries featuring diverse STEM practitioners and storytellers.

Please note the films available on Kanopy change regularly so not all of the recommendations on this page may be available. 

Feature Films

We had hoped to incorporate more feature films in this guide. However, the majority of "diverse" STEM films tell the story of CIS white men (and a few women). Hidden Figures is a noteworthy outlier as it's a feature film about the achievements of three African American women mathematicians (computers). 

Note: the films in this section are "based on a true story" but their accuracy levels differ. A quick Google search will turn up criticism, good and bad, on each film.

a slice of cake

This guide was made to accompany the 2021 ISCORE presentation:
Diverse STEM Reading: A Layercake of Problems :-/

Presented and created by:
Megan O'Donnell, Data Services Librarian &
Erin Thomas, Engineering Librarian

Both presenters identify as white women and recognize that this group has a disproportionate representation and influence on two of the industries that act as gatekeepers on print media: publishers and libraries.