Depictions of Women in STEM: Nomi Marks

July 25, 2019

Written by: Alicen Ricard

This post contains spoilers for Sense8.

It’s that time of year again where we do our special pride edition of our Depictions of Women in STEM in the Media series. When Netflix premiered the show Sense8 no one really knew what to expect. What we got was weird and wonderful and gave us a representation of a trans character in STEM, in Nomi Marks, portrayed by a trans actress, Jamie Clayton. 

Source: Planoaberto

Nomi is a professional hacker and a political blogger. She got into hacking when she was a teenager and discovered she was really good at it. She calls herself a hacktivist, but it’s never quite clear in the show what exactly she does. To sum up and simplify Sense8, it is a show about eight people, all born on the same day, who are mentally and physically linked to each other (also known as sensates). Nomi is one of the sensates, which puts her in a lot of danger that she has to find her way out of. One of the ways she helps out the sensates and gets to be a “hero” in the show is by hacking.

Source: Twitter

The problem with Nomi’s hacking in the show is it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense story-wise, and it’s very much used as a deus ex machina, as hacking often is in media. She hacks into medical records and helps Will find Riley (two other sensates) much easier than she should be able to. It could be said that this show in itself is just one deus ex machina since all the sensates can feel, hear, and see what the other sensates are doing due to them being connected.

Source: Them

Another important thing to talk about when it comes to Nomi is her portrayal of an LGBT woman in STEM. None of the other sensates think less of her because she is a trans lesbian and a woman in STEM. Some of her story, particularly her family not being accepting of her being trans, could be seen as stereotypical, but it’s still a pretty positive portrayal. It’s also a huge step in the right direction that she is a trans character played by a trans actress. And she is in a healthy loving relationship with a woman, and neither one of them die. A huge plus in the media. There has been a lot of backlash in Hollywood about cisgender actors playing trans characters, and trans actors like Jamie Clayton are advocates for trans actors in trans roles because representation matters. 


The former Obama Administration's White House fact sheet lists 3 goals for fictional representation of women in STEM. We are noticing a trend in the movies and television shows we have reviewed - they meet some of the following goals better than others.

1.  Include diverse STEM role models (past and present): Only two of the eight sensates are in STEM, but both of them are women. One being Nomi and the other is a woman of colour, Kala, who is a pharmaceutical scientist. The other characters themselves are fairly diverse both in nationality and sexuality. The show meets this goal. 

2. Highlight the breadth of STEM careers and social impacts: There aren't a lot of STEM careers in the show. Kala is a pharmaceutical scientist (which barely comes up in the shows) and Nomi is a hacker, but Nomi's career isn't exactly legal... or paid. This show doesn't meet this goal.

3.  Debunk STEM stigmas and misconceptions: While Nomi is a diverse person to see in STEM, the show leans into the stereotypes of hackers quite heavily.  In face the show relies on a lot of stereotypes, not just in careers but also with racial stereotypes. It does not meet this goal.

Let us know some of your favourite LGBT women in STEM on Twitter or Facebook.