WAGGL | February 2017 | Diversity makes teams better. Remarkable progress can happen when inclusion is at your organizational core.
(Before we go any further – spoilers ahead!)
Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures is the film adaptation of the incredible true story of the women who crushed stereotypes to become recognized as some of the greatest intellectual minds at NASA. When our Waggl team saw this film, it resonated with us immediately because we share core values like inclusion and the importance of culture and progressive leadership.
The story illustrates the value inherent in diversity and the remarkable progress that can be made when inclusion is at your organizational core.
The year was 1961. Katherine Johnson was part of a group of female African-American mathematicians working at NASA during the “Space Race.” These women were segregated from the rest of the NASA staff, working in a different wing of the Langley campus. This was an unfortunate societal norm at the time – and it was detrimental to NASA’s innovative and ambitious objectives.
Sometimes, it takes a perfect storm of circumstances to reveal rare talent within a workplace. Decades before the film’s events, President Roosevelt had declared there must be a push toward innovation in federal agencies. The nation’s young men were being sent to war instead of sent to work, and women found themselves with an opportunity to be compensated – albeit at a lesser scale.
The precursor to NASA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), had hired Johnson and her colleagues. The space race intensified, and Johnson was called in to double-check the equations of the first IBM computer calculating trajectories. No one could have predicted just how important Johnson’s talents and insight would have been not only to Shepherd’s orbital journey but also to the Apollo missions. NASA had overlooked the tremendous resources already existing within its workforce for years.
In addition to Johnson, Hidden Figures also details the journeys of Mary Jackson, the first female engineer at NASA, and Dorothy Vaughn, who rose in the ranks to become a predominant computer programmer and supervisor.
We cannot create true progress and transformation without addressing the injustices of past, because the echoes of those injustices still resonate in business practices today. However, we ca honor trailblazers like Katherine Johnson by creating accessible platforms that deliver real change to organizations.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Waggl blog.
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