Raising the 'Hidden Figures' of Technology

Dorothy Vaughan is a hero of technology that helped to calculate flight trajectories for Project Mercury and Apollo 11. In the upcoming movie Hidden Figures she is played by Octavia Spencer, an academy award winning actress who was tasked with portraying the complex personality of a brilliant woman who did extraordinary things during the early days of the space age.

Women Who Code had a chance to sit down with Octavia and ask her about the significance of the movie, Hidden Figures, and her view on the value of diversity in STEM and the technology industry.

The untold story championed in this movie is particularly pertinent this week, as we celebrate the birthday’s of two prominent technology pioneers. Ada Lovelace, the inventor of computer programming, was born on December 10th, 1815 and Grace Hopper, developed the first compiler for a computer programming language, was born on December 9th, 1906. These landmarks help to remind us that the technology world was built by a diverse array of incredible individuals.

In her interview, Octavia Spencer notes that the importance of Hidden Figures comes largely from highlighting the achievements of people who are often overlooked professionally. Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson, African American women working in the 1950's and 1960's, pioneered the field of space technology and helped humanity reach the stars. Recognizing their achievements is important because it helps to expand the common perception of technology by adding new heroes to the pantheon of the past. This aligns closely with the core values of Women Who Code. Through our efforts we hope to not only support this generations of female tech professionals, but to also highlight their achievements and celebrate their successes so that we can create an industry perception that is more balanced and inclusive. In this way we hope to change the face of leadership and technology to become an inherently more equitable field for everyone.

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