Excellence Through Diversity Lecture Series

Excellence Through Diversity Lecture Series

The Excellence Through Diversity Lecture Series introduces ideas and perspectives to increase understanding of the value of diversity and enhance the University's efforts toward inclusive excellence in STEM.


Margot Lee ShetterlyRecognizing Hidden Figures in STEM Today

Margot Lee Shetterly


Wednesday, September 16, 2020 
4:00 p.m. 
Zoom Webinar

Lecture Summary: ‘Hidden Figures’ Author Points to Lessons From the Past in Addressing Inequality in STEM Education and Careers→


Office of the President/Diversity and Inclusion
Center for Faculty Engagement and Advancement
Lore-El Center for Women's Leadership
Division of Development and Alumni Engagement

ABSTRACT: The extensive research that exposed the Hidden Figures at NASA between the 1930s and 1960s sends a strong message in 2020. How do we ensure that we engage people from all demographic groups in the STEM enterprise along the educational and career continuum? Margot Lee Shetterly will speak to this issue and discuss the journey that led to her nationally award-winning book and movie.

BIOGRAPHY: Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures — the #1 NYT bestseller that inspired a #1 movie in America — is the true story of the black women mathematicians at NASA who helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. In talks, Shetterly celebrates these unsung heroes, teasing out issues of race, gender, science and innovation against the backdrop of WWII and the Civil Rights Era.

Writer, researcher and entrepreneur Margot Lee Shetterly is the author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, which was a top book of 2016 for both TIME and Publisher’s Weekly, a USA Today bestseller, and a #1 (instant) New York Times bestseller.

The film adaptation of her book — which became the number one movie in America — stars Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, and Octavia Spencer was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. To The New York Times, the film introduces viewers to “real people you might wish you had known more about earlier … [who] can fill you with outrage at the persistence of injustice and gratitude toward those who had the grit to stand up against it.” A television show is also in the works.

Shetterly is also the founder of the Human Computer Project, a digital archive telling the stories all of NASA’s “Human Computers,” women from all backgrounds whose work tipped the balance in favor of the United States in WWII, the Cold War and the Space Race. Shetterly’s father was among the early generation of black NASA engineers and scientists, and she had direct access to NASA executives and the women featured in the book. She grew up around the historically black Hampton University, where some of the women in Hidden Figures studied. Her research has been supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. She is currently a scholar-in-residence at the University of Virginia, with joint appointments at the McIntire School of Commerce and the School of Engineering.

National Science FoundationThis event is made possible through support by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1311792. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Past Lectures

Margot Lee Shetterly

Ms. Margot Lee Shetterly

Recognizing Hidden Figures in STEM Today

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Dr. Stephanie Goodwin

Changing the Conversation: Responding to Social Bias at Work

Susan Cain

Ms. Susan Cain

Quiet: How to Harness the Strengths of Introverts to Transform How We Work, Lead and Innovate

Carla Harris

Ms. Carla Harris

Strategize to Win

Dr. Shaun Harper

Dr. Shaun Harper

In Pursuit of Excellence: Critical Perspectives on Racial Equity

Dr. Jedidah Isler

Dr. Jedidah Isler

Toward an Inclusive STEM Enterprise: Ideas on Leadership

Dr. Scott Page

Dr. Scott Page

Improving Collective Decision Making and Performance: Why Diversity Matters