Hidden Figures has become the movie everyone wants to bring young girls to a theatre to see to inspire them to challenge a career in STEM. Our I Have a Dream Foundation – Los Angeles (IHADLA) girls were fortunate to be selected to attend a screening of the film that included on-stage interviews with the key players before the film was released. STEM is one of the important objectives of our IHADLA programs and as an education charity we are grateful.
Today Hidden Figures is recognized as an important film not just for girls, especially African American girls, but to the film industry as well, having received three Oscar nominations and winning awards along the way.
“Seeing Hidden Figures was an amazing experience that I was very proud and grateful to attend. I loved the movie and the story behind it.”
~ 10th grader, Malekah Flores
“Watching the screening of Hidden Figures not only assured me that nobody can stop me from what I want to accomplish in life but me, BUT it motivated me to continue pushing through all of the obstacles I may encounter.”
~ 11th grader, Jazmyn Davis
Hidden Figures at the Oscars
An Oscar nominee for best picture, best supporting actress and best screenplay adaptation, industry pundits were very surprised that Hidden Figures didn’t win an Oscar. That film just last month won the SAG Awards’ equivalent of best picture — outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture — over best picture Oscar winner Moonlight and almost-winner La La Land, which wasn’t nominated for the ensemble award.
The Oscars did provide ample time for the three leads in the movie to be on stage to introduce the real Katherine Johnson portrayed by Taraji Henson, and now 98, to a standing ovation.
Katherine Johnson told the Los Angeles Times when asked how to get more women and people of color involved in STEM careers:
“Go see ‘Hidden Figures,’ and take a young person. It will give a more positive outlook on what is possible if you work hard, do your best and are prepared.”
Taraji Henson: Katherine Johnson – research mathematician (currently 89, appeared on stage at Oscars)
Known for accuracy in computerized celestial navigation, she conducted technical work at NASA that spanned decades. During this time, she calculated the trajectories, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths for many flights from Project Mercury, including the early NASA missions of John Glenn and Alan Shepard, and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon, through the Space Shuttle program. Her calculations were critical to the success of these missions. Johnson also did calculations for plans for a mission to Mars.
Janelle Monae: Mary Jackson – Nasa’s first black female engineer
After 34 years at NASA, Jackson had earned the most senior engineering title available. She realized she could not earn further promotions without becoming a supervisor. She accepted a demotion to become a manager of both the Federal Women’s Program, in the NASA Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, and of the Affirmative Action Program. In this role, she worked to influence both the hiring and promotion of women in NASA’s science, engineering, and mathematics careers.
Octavia Spencer: (nominated for best supporting actress): Dorothy Vaughan – Supervisor. Retired 1971. Died 2008. In 1949, she became acting supervisor of the West Area Computers, the first African-American woman to supervise a staff at the center. She later was promoted officially to this position. During her 28-year career, Vaughan prepared for the introduction of machine computers in the early 1960s by teaching herself and her staff the programming language of FORTRAN; she later headed the programming section of the Analysis and Computation Division (ACD) at Langley.