Outthink hidden

Overlooked heroes from technology’s early days inspire tomorrow’s STEM leaders

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20th Century Fox’s Hidden Figures tells the story of the Space Race from a new perspective, uncovering the contributions of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan.

Inspired by the achievements of these three women, IBM aims to shine a spotlight on hidden figures from science, technology, engineering and mathematics stem to act as role models for the next generation. Because when creative minds work with the best technology, we can outthink anything.


During the Space Race, NASA’s computers were women

Hidden Figures tells the unbelievable but true story of three African-American female mathematicians working at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. They wanted a chance to change their lives; while they were at it, they changed history.

These human “computers,” with help from an early mainframe provided by IBM, created computations that enabled John Glenn to become the first American astronaut to orbit the earth. The 1962 launch of the Mercury capsule Friendship 7 transformed the Space Race, became a symbol of American pride, and led to breakthroughs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics worldwide.

Hidden Figures © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

The power of Hidden Figures: diversity in STEM

At CES 2017, journalist Soledad O’Brien took the stage to dive deeper on the issues at hand, along with 20th Century Fox talent from the “Hidden Figures” film, STEM industry influencers and IBM Chief Diversity Officer Lindsay-Rae McIntyre.

The power of Hidden Figures: diversity in STEM

New mobile app helps outthink hidden

IBM and the New York Times’ T Brand Studio have introduced a new augmented reality (AR) application profiling early unsung heroes of innovation in STEM fields.

Reveal their inspiring stories when you scan an AR marker like the one at right. Activate text, photos and video content about these hidden figures within ad units on nytimes.com, via ads in select print editions of The New York Times, and at 150 geofenced locations throughout the U.S.

Placing these hidden figures out in the world as virtual monuments for you to explore is our way of imagining a world where every STEM innovator can be encouraged, recognized and celebrated.

Download the new T Brand Studio AR app to see hidden heroes of STEM. Use the app to scan the marker at right and meet your first hidden figure.

Watson works with NASA

IBM and NASA's collaboration dates back to the Space Race, and they’re still working together today.

Writing their stories into history

Contributions from creative men and women of all backgrounds are crucial to realizing our collective goals — and one way to encourage a more diverse future is to showcase the sometimes hidden, but never forgotten, diverse role models from our past.

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson

Johnson completed high school at age 14 and graduated summa cum laude with degrees in math and French at 18 after taking every math course offered by West Virginia State College — including some created especially for her. Her deep expertise in geometry enabled her to calculate complex launch trajectories and flight paths for numerous NASA missions.

Mary Jackson

Mary Jackson

Jackson began her career at NASA in 1951 as a research mathematician, then went on to become an aerospace engineer. After 34 years in technology at NASA, she decided to take a pay cut and become an equal opportunity specialist, directing her energies to opening doors in STEM to all.

Dorothy Vaughan

Dorothy Vaughan

Vaughan was one of the first African-American woman supervisors at NASA and helped advance the careers of Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson. Once non-human computers were introduced, Vaughan trained herself to become one of the first computer programmers, becoming proficient in early computer languages like FORTRAN.

Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the book Hidden Figures, and the actors who play the film’s main characters, in a series of interviews about the the achievements of these three “human computers” and other STEM pioneers who have followed the trail they blazed:

Taraji P. Henson

Taraji P. Henson

On how crunching numbers was seen as a “girl’s job” when Katherine Johnson took it on, opening the door for women to play a crucial role in the early space program.

Janelle Monae

Janelle Monáe

On how Mary Jackson’s genius “looked different,” and her lifelong passion for bringing other unique talents into the STEM fold.

Octavia Spencer

Octavia Spencer

On the role Dorothy Vaughan played in helping other women gain a foothold in the male-dominated space program.

Rising stars and those who inspire them

Some of the greatest breakthroughs in science, technology, engineering and math have been driven by unknown figures. In collaboration with Vanity Fair, IBM salutes today’s innovators and those who have inspired their work. Through their efforts, greater diversity and inclusion are within reach for the next generation.


Past is prologue. And it is a fact that women have helped drive every era of technology we have known to date.

Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO, Chairman and President, at the 2016 Grace Hopper Conference

In her recent keynote address to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, Ginni Rometty spoke about the need for women the world over to pursue careers in STEM. She cited NASA mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson, featured in Hidden Figures, as examples of the critical role women have always played in driving technology forward.

Fewer than 3 in 10 science and engineering jobs are held by women

Diversity at IBM

For a company to fully embrace diversity, conversations about fair hiring practices and equal opportunity are table stakes. At IBM, we go far beyond these to actively create an inclusive culture that ensures the brightest minds from all backgrounds can contribute fully throughout our business.

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What every business needs is more people who think.

Thomas J. Watson Sr.