Diversity makes teams better. Remarkable progress can be made when inclusion is at your organizational core. (Spoiler Alert!)
Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures is the film adaptation of the incredible true story of the women that 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 while they worked in a different wing of the Langley campus, a societal norm that was at the detriment of NASA’s innovation and ambitious objectives.
Sometimes it takes a perfect storm of circumstances to reveal rare talent within the workplace. Decades earlier, 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 doublecheck the equations of the first IBM computer calculating trajectories.
There was no way to have predicted just how important Johnson’s talents and insight could have been to not only Shepherd’s orbital journey but also the Apollo missions. NASA had overlooked the tremendous resources already existing within their 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 that occurred in the past, and the echoes of those injustices that still exist in business practices today. However, we are able to honor trailblazers like Katherine Johnson by creating accessible platforms that deliver real change to organizations.
This post was co-authored by Hui Lin Tan of Waggl.