IBM and Fox make a big impact with Hidden Figures screening

Data Scientist/ Advisory Software Engineer, IBM

January marked the release of the long awaited Hidden Figures movie featuring an all-star cast and highlighting the contributions of both women and IBM's technology to history! Hidden Figures tells the true story of three African-American female mathematicians, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Mary Vaughn, working at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. 

Women working with NASA at the time were referred to as human “computers,” performing the calculations that were not available on computers until the introduction of the, IBM mainframe 7090 DPS, also featured in the film. The human “computers” computations enabled John Glenn’s history making launch as 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. IBM and Fox partnered to offer free screenings across the country focusing on our aspiring young engineers and scientists including P-TECH and numerous community partnerships.

Watch the IBM 7090 DPS in this scene from the movie.

J. White Bear, an engineer and data scientist at Spark Technology Center part of Watson’s Data Platform and founder of the IBM Women’s Technical Focus Group based in San Francisco,  worked to secure permission for a local screening for the newly opened Watson West group, the West Coast based business resource groups, and local community partnerships featuring Black Girls Code, a nationwide organization, focusing on young women of color in technology. The full list of community partners included Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, SF Mayors office, SF Library, SF Boys and Girls Club, SF State, USF, SHPE Society Hispanic Professional Engineers, College Track, ASCEND, Lesbians Who Tech, and Catalyst. 

The West Coast IBM team came together and did an amazing job to make the event a success for IBMers and our community partners. IBM’s Corporate Citizenship officer, Kristina Vasquez, US Diversity and Inclusion, Heather Howell, Spark Technology Center Design team member Jeremy Anderson, SF BRG member Mary Ochoa, and Summit new hires all volunteered their time and extraordinary effort to make the event a success. 

The San Francisco screening was held at AMC Van Ness, an architectural monument to San Francisco’s history, and featured two guest speakers. Laura Guio, Vice President, Systems Services Center of Competency and Sales, and California Senior State Executive gave a moving testament to IBM’s long time commitment to diversity and equality from a personal perspective including her family’s multi-generational affiliation and reaffirmation of IBM’s commitment to a diverse workforce since before it was federally required. 

Black Girls Code had 150 invited attendees. Kimberly Bryant, president and founder of Black Girls Code, and herself an engineer highlighted her involvement with promoting young women in STEM across the country and how IBM’s community partnerships was one of many integral pieces in creating pipelines for women to have continued access to STEM pipelines.

The Hidden Figures screening cemented IBM’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, so that we can all step forward into success together. The consensus from IBMers who attended the event was a renewed motivation and commitment to success for all IBMers. 

IBM Women’s Technical Focus group is still working hard to provide a foundation for women at IBM to push their careers forward and offer a platform of encouragement and support to make that happen and has an ongoing commitment to working with our communities to ensure that success for everyone. Please stay tuned for upcoming Grace Hopper Galentine’s Day Workshop and STEM Outreach Day, a monthly outreach to local organizations focusing on young people in the Bay area community. 

If you’d like help or to get involved with our programs please contact J. White Bear at