“Hidden Figures” Film Inspires Cleveland’s Next Generation of Women & Minorities in Tech Fields

Most of us know about John Glenn and Neil Armstrong – but few know that a group of brilliant African-American women mathematicians working at NASA helped Glenn become the first American to orbit the earth in the historic 1962 launch in the space race against Russia. That’s the untold story behind the new 21st Century Fox film Hidden Figures, released nationwide on January 6. Here in Cleveland, the film shines a light on the growing need to include women and minorities in science, technology, engineering, and math – particularly in IT and software development.

Leslie Evans is president of We Can Code IT, a leading Cleveland computer coding academy with a unique focus on inviting women and minorities to meet the growing demand for diversity in IT departments. “The story behind ‘Hidden Figures’ is really still happening today,” says Evans. “We provide training and support for minorities and women so they can break into a field where they often feel shut out – and we help employers who crave diversity, with fewer than 18 percent of IT teams including women, African Americans or Hispanics,” says Evans.
We Can Code IT partnered with Breakthrough Schools, Cleveland’s highest-performing network of free, public charter schools. Their goal is to inspire their students’ parents and other family members to learn about the IT field and feel comfortable attending a coding bootcamp. Low-income families can apply for generous scholarships toward tuition through Ohio Means Jobs.
“Many Cleveland parents didn’t have the opportunity to attend high-performing schools themselves, so this is our way to include the broader community,” says Katie Grootegoed, Breakthrough’s Director of Technology Enhanced Learning. “Working with We Can Code IT, our families see people from diverse backgrounds and begin to believe a career in software development and IT is possible for them.  This is how we close the gap in Cleveland.”
The film Hidden Figures is based on a book by Margot Lee Shetterly and tells the true story of a group of African-American women working at a NASA lab in Hampton, Virginia who helped America dominate aeronautics and space research during a critical time in U.S. history.
We Can Code IT hopes the film will inspire the next generation of women and minorities to pursue an education in science, math and software development.