Hidden Figures, the amazing true story of the African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1960s, has no doubt inspired more women and girls to pursue careers in math and science. Last summer, digital content agency Cats on the Roof worked with 20th Century Fox to create a video about one of the movie’s subjects to inspire more women to enter STEM careers.
Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson in the movie, was a “human computer” who helped put astronauts into space in the 1960s, while shattering gender and racial barriers.
The video, which is narrated by Henson, shows the mathematician’s accomplishments, and how she overcame adversity, appropriately, through numbers. These include: 20, the age when she became the first African-American female to attend West Virginia University’s grad school; five, the number of honorary degrees she earned; and 2,000, the number of steps the colored bathrooms were from her office at NASA.
“We wanted to show how remarkable these women were, not only how smart and how many achievements they had, but how much they had to fight to be a part of it,” said Cooper Gwaltney, associate producer at Cats on the Roof.
The video was released on National Women’s Equality Day on August 26, which also fell on Johnson’s 98th birthday. The goal was to build enthusiasm for the movie’s December release.
“We don’t give away anything from the movie, but we created original content that got the fan base excited the same way a teaser would,” Gwaltney said. “It piques your interest, you learn about Katherine Johnson and maybe do some research on your own.”
For every social media share of the video, Fox donated $1 to the STEM Education Coalition, a nonprofit that works to raise awareness in Congress of the role that STEM education plays in the United States’ competitiveness in the global marketplace. The video was shared on social media by Fox, NASA, Google Science Fair and the actresses from the movie.
“The reactions and comments were really exciting–it got people excited about the movie and her story,” Gwaltney said. “Even though there are hurdles in these fields and you still see low numbers of women getting math or engineering degrees, if Katherine Johnson could accomplish so much, the message to the women of today is, in spite of the challenges, you can still do great things.”