Math and Diversity made cool by Hidden Figures

While our differences shape who we are as individual IBMers, our shared culture and values remain central to our success. We are fortunate to work in an environment where diversity is part of what we believe, and who we are. We understand that diversity goes beyond fair hiring practices and protection for all employees. Diversity helps us relate to clients, drive client outcomes, inspire innovation and allow the best thoughts to flow freely  across every part of our business.

IBM has partnered with 20th Century Fox to promote the film Hidden Figures, the previously untold story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson and their “hidden” contribution to make the USA the winner in the space race of the sixties. This awe-inspiring story showcases the African-American talent at NASA and shows how their contributions were vital to the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. I’m thrilled that IBM is helping add a spotlight on diversity and hidden figures from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as role models for the next generation.

On Friday, January 6, I had the privilege to meet panelists at IBM’s #HiddenFigures Super Session at CES2017 in Las Vegas, moderated by former CNN broadcaster Soledad O’Brien (@soledadobrien). This session featured a panel of role models who are genuinely committed to diversity. It included talent from the movie, leaders from P-TECH and Girls Who Code, IBM Chief Diversity Officer Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, and Kristen Summers from the IBM Watson team.
Hidden Figures
It was insightful to hear directly from these great professionals what this movie means and how it translates to action.

For Soledad O’Brien, this is an additional item to the long list of activities she has led, including her own Starfish Media Group, and her acclaimed work at CNN. I enjoyed spending time one-on-one with her to learn more about her impressive career and commitment to her family, including her four children.

Rashid Davis, the founding principal of P-TECH, shared his personal commitment to provide opportunities for STEM education to underserved communities. Rashid is an amazing “hidden figure” in his own right having made a difference in many people’s lives through education.

Soledad O'Brian and Jesus Mantas, GM, IBM GBS Business Consulting

Soledad O’Brian (@soledadobrien), former CNN broadcaster and Jesus Mantas (@jmantas), GM, IBM Business Consulting

I loved how Ted Malfi, director of Hidden Figures, described why he did this movie: “There are no parades for mathematicians.” He went on to share how this movie fits every description of what not to do in Hollywood. “Everyone tells you for a movie to succeed, you should not make a movie about math, about race, and about every other aspect this movie is about…, but we had to make this movie.”

It was a joy spending time with Oscar and Golden Globe winner Octavia Spencer, the amazing actress portraying Dorothy Vaughn, one of the first African-American woman supervisors at NASA. It takes mere seconds to realize how genuine she is to her character. We’re are all hoping for another Oscar nomination for her role in this movie.

I credit the impressive Elizabeth Gabler, president of Fox 2000 Movies, for reading the screen play and making the decision to push for a go ahead in virtually 24 hours. She had the foresight and courage to bet on making this movie – that’s leadership.

You can learn more about this biographical film, the discussion and IBM’s enduring commitment to diversity on the official IBM Hidden Figures website. I encourage you to bring your family to see the film Hidden Figures. It’s an amazing story that everyone can learn from.

We don’t just talk diversity. We do diversity.

History is written backwards, but created forward. Every day there are many #HiddenFigures working in the world, creating the difference between winning and losing, and most of them are, and will forever be hidden. As illustrated in the movie, disruptive thinking comes from diversity and people with courage, and winners are those with foresight to accept the best answer no matter where it comes from. We enhance our relevance and competitive advantage through diversity. Since its beginnings, IBM has been an example of diversity — not as a public relations affair, but as a core value that we act on because we believe it’s the right thing to do. An example of this ongoing commitment is when IBM collaborated to create P-TECH in 2011, which prepares youth, particularly low-income students of color, to earn a college degree and join the workforce. In six years or less, students can earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree in a STEM field. Another great example is the strong IBM Hispanic community that promotes leadership, education and societal impact as one of the most prominent minorities in the country.

IBM recognizes the unique value and skills every individual brings to the workplace. We believe that innovation comes from seeking out and inspiring diversity in all its dimensions. Consciously building diverse teams and encouraging diversity of ideas continues to help us make the greatest impact for our clients, our colleagues and the world.

There are many hidden figures today waiting to be encouraged, helped and given a chance to change the world, and we will do our part to give them the best platform to succeed.

For more information contact me at and follow me on Twitter & LinkedIn. Learn more about #HiddenFigures at:

General Manager, IBM Business Consulting

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