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[VIDEO] Prominent Women of Color in STEM Discuss the Black Girl Magic of Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures tells the real-life story of mathematician Katherine Johnson and her colleagues Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who worked for NASA in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center during the Space Race of the 1960s. It’s their calculations that helped launch astronaut John Glenn into space, allowing him to become the first American to orbit the Earth. Directed by St. Vincent’s Theodore Melfi and featuring a script from Allison Schroeder, the film is based on the novel of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly.

The Paley Center for Media in New York City recently hosted a special screening of the movie along with a panel made up of Melfi, Shetterly, Aldis Hodge (who plays Levi Jackson) and prominent women of color with careers in STEM. You can watch it in full here. We had the chance to speak with those incredibly smart women about the black girl magic so prominent in the film, and how math isn’t so much a gift as it is a skill that can be learned.

Here’s the breakdown of who we talked to:

Dale Davis Jones – IBM Distinguished Engineer
She’s the first African-American to hold that title with the company. Jones has more than 25 years of experience designing and executing business and tech transformation solutions.

Dr. Knatokie Ford –  Senior Policy Advisor for the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy
Dr. Ford oversees national initiative to increase visibility and improve the image of STEM fields and careers.

Dr. Jedidah Isler – Astrophysicist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer
She studies supermassive, hyperactive black holes. She’s also a National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt University.

Hidden Figures arrives in select theaters on Christmas Day and will open for wide release on January 6. It stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons and Mahershala Ali. Pharrell Williams teamed up with Hans Zimmer to create the music for the film.

(image via screencap)

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