|(From left to right: Elizabeth Gabler, President Fox 2000 Pictures, 20th Century Fox; Rashid Ferrod Davis, Founding Principal, P-TECH; Kristen Summers, Technical Delivery Lead, Watson Public Sector, IBM; Soledad O’Brien, journalist and panel moderator. Image: Black Enterprise)|
Those mathematicians (Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson) did work that helped John Glenn orbit the Earth in the 1960s.
The panel at CES, the world’s largest technology show, included the film's director, Theodore Melfi, and one of its stars, Octavia Spencer as well as leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and focused on the incredible achievements of the three mathematicians as depicted in the film and the ongoing push for women to succeed in STEM.
Soledad O’Brien said that the movie was an emotional experience for her because it not only recognizes the power of these women using math and science, but also what they accomplished socially. She was struck by how the women affected great change. “These are some tough, amazing women who really got the job done that needed to be done,” she said.
During the movie, Octavia Spencer’s character learns to program the IBM 7090 DPS—a vacuum-tube mainframe computer. IBM is one of the oldest tech companies in the world, forming in the 19th century. Its technology was used in World War II and for space exploration.
“Big Blue” also has an extensive history of diversity. “We’re so privileged to have had the IBM forefathers who hired the first black employee,” said Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, IBM’s chief diversity officer. That employee was Richard MacGregor hired in 1899 by IBM’s precursor company, the Computing Scale Company. In 1953, IBM hired its first black engineer and continues on a trajectory of diverse hiring today.
You can watch the IBM and Hidden Figures panel in its entirety at facebook.com/IBM/videos/1226504650773148/