SPOILER ALERT- If you haven’t seen the movie Hidden Figures, STOP READING NOW! Go see it, then come back to this article. The movie is too great to risk spoiling it. I was fortunate to see it with three of the most important women in my life. We all thought it was a fascinating story, with superb performances from Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, and Kevin Costner.
Movie Summary: A NASA rocket scientist makes an earth-shattering discovery in his own backyard. No, it isn’t aliens, but something almost as rare in the 1960’s. What he discovers is three women mathematicians/technology mavens, who can match and out perform their male counterparts. In fact, after a complex series of events their intellectual capital contributions end up helping NASA achieve some of its most important goals, most notably blasting ahead of Russia in the space race.
Sounds like science fiction doesn’t it? It gets better, the women are African American, working in a racially segregated NASA. One of the women, Dorothy Vaughan, becomes NASA’s first African-American female manager. Another, Mary Jackson, became NASA’s first Black female engineer. Still another, Katherine Johnson, was presented The Medal of Freedom award by President Barack Obama. The absolute best part? It’s all a true story told first by the woman who wrote the best-selling book, Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly.
Hidden Figures, Open Minds
According to box office figures that are far from hidden, the movie has generated over 200 million dollars domestically. Hidden Figures is also an Academy Awards Best Picture nominee. Octavia Spencer has been nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
Of course, the Academy Awards is redefining its own inclusion efforts after two years of excluding people of color from many of the major award categories. This year the Oscar should go to the Academy itself for Best Performance with an Open Mind. First, they publicly acknowledged they had some inclusion work to do, they promised to do it, then they actually did it. Bravo Academy! Hooray for Hollywood.
I don’t want nobody to give me nothing. Open up the door and I’ll get it myself. –James Brown
What talented people in Hollywood want most and what the talented people at NASA wanted, is the very same thing most us want, a chance. A chance to compete, to learn, earn, develop and contribute our gifts. Creating artificial barriers to inclusion cheats us out of the ability to contribute and nearly everyone else out of the results.
It takes open minds to open doors, to welcome the possibilities that “otherness” brings. Its great to have open hearts too. But sometimes we think caring about critical issues is enough and we stop taking action when we feel good. We have to get better about taking action when we are uncomfortable. There is a lot of discomfort around us today.
The results of inclusion and maintaining a global mindset are evident in many successful organizations. Yet some of us continue to build barriers to keep others out that succeed only at trapping our real potential in. Do we really have to be rocket scientists to unleash the power of inclusion, diversity and a global mindset?
No! And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do the right thing. Opening doors by breaking down barriers creates better opportunities for us all.
We live in a great country. We should be proud but we can do better, much better. Maximizing our opportunities for inclusion is an excellent way to start.
Hayward Suggs- Leadership Coach and Soft Skills Trainer Commonquest Consulting
The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race.”– Susan B. Anthony
Originally published by Hayward Suggs on LinkedIn February 24th, 2017.