6 Key Lessons Learned From Watching Hidden Figures
The critically acclaimed, award-winning film Hidden Figures (currently available on FXM) highlights the challenging journeys and achievements of a trio of African-American women. All of these brave women played vital roles at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) during the early years of the American space program.
The movie points out different ways these brilliant young women overcame racial stereotypes and gender bias to boost our country in overcoming the Russians in the space race. While racism and discrimination are at the forefront of this film, there are many more, often overlooked lessons to learn from this powerfully dramatic film.
1. Powerful Mentors Matter
The main character of Katherine Johnson (masterfully portrayed by Taraji P. Henson) showed tremendous prowess in mathematics at a very early age. Her parents supported this amazing talent and since there was no school available for black girls in their hometown, the family moved to Institute, West Virginia to further her education. There she was taught and mentored by Angie Lena Turner King, a brilliant African-American chemist, and mathematician in her own right. Continue reading to see more ways mentors matter, comradery conquers and a commitment to success overcomes obstacles.
2. The Power of Teamwork
Outside the context of the film, Johnson would later join the West Computing Group at the Langley Research Center. This is where many African-American women found new jobs and each other in the process. Using their intellect and inside this newly-formed group of gal pals, they would regularly check each other's work to ensure nothing left the office with an error. They worked collectively to advance each other as individuals performing calculations to further future space missions and continuing with important aviation research.
3. Women Advocating for Women
Briefly touched upon during the movie, Johnson began as a human-computer under the direction of Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer ruled this role) the head of the West Computing Division. After two weeks, Johnson was moved to the Maneuver Load Branch of the Flight Research Division led by Henry Person (aced by Kevin Costner). Not revealed in the film, following Johnson's probationary period, Dorothy Vaughn told Henry Pearson to either give her a raise in pay or send her back to her at the computing division. Pearson offered Johnson the position along with a higher salary and the rest, as they say, is history.
4. Pushing to Advocate for Yourself
When NASA was formed in 1958 and prior to the arrival of Johnson, women of any race were not allowed to attend Test Flight briefings. As showcased in the movie, due to timing issues, her sheer determination, and amazing talents, she finally asked if she could attend and was allowed entrance. However, in real life, initially, she was turned down. But the men grew tired of her constant questions outside the briefings and eventually, she was allowed to attend.
5. Having True Grit
Not to be confused a couple of namesake movies, Johnson showed some serious true grit in her efforts at NASA and beyond. As presented in the movie, in real life, and by definition, a person with grit has courage, is conscientious, has long-term goals, shows resilience, portrays excellence rather than perfection. It was these character traits that propelled Johnson to success including becoming the first African-American and woman to have her name on a NASA research report. In the NASA archives, there are more than 25 papers on space flight and aeronautics, the largest number for a woman regardless of their race.
6. Given The Power of Possibility
Not only did the struggles and achievements of these women make for an excellent film, but it also led to other possibilities for the future. For example, the popular toymaker Mattel recently launched (pardon the pun) a Katherine Johnson Barbie doll as part of their "Inspiring Women" series to celebrate "The achievements of a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender." Although Barbie might be merely a plaything, along with movies like Hidden Figures, these will help encourage girls and women of all ages to consider the possibilities of careers in the fields of science and mathematics.
Here at Buckeye Broadband, we highly encourage everyone to watch these inspirational, educational, and entertaining movies, documentaries, series, and more available on cable. Films like this one and many more help us all to see how people have overcome obstacles to embrace individuals for their intelligence, contributions, and strength of character rather than the color of their skin or gender.