How Box Office No. 1 ‘Hidden Figures’ Is Inspiring Black Girls to Code

January 9, 2017, 6:22 PM UTC
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Hosts an Official Academy Screening of HIDDEN FIGURES
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, and Janelle Monae attend an official academy screening of HIDDEN FIGURES hosted by the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at MOMA - Celeste Bartos Theater on December 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)
Photograph by Kris Connor—Getty Images for Academy of Moti

We know that STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—is vital to winning in the workplace, but who knew that it is also key to winning at the box office?

Hidden Figures, the film that tells the story of a group of female African-American mathematicians who played a key role at NASA in the 1960s, just edged out Star Wars juggernaut Rogue One to take the No. 1 slot in the weekend box office, with an estimated $22.8 million in tickets sold.

Among the viewers the film can thank for that impressive opening: members of Black Girls CODE, a nonprofit dedicated to introducing programming and technology to African-American girls. The organization is partnering with 20th Century Fox, the studio behind the film, to host a series of complementary screenings this month in each of the 11 cities with a BGC chapter. The full schedule of screenings can be found here.

As part of the partnership, the young women of Black Girls CODE built, a website that profiles some of the CODE members and includes their reflections on how they’ve been inspired by Katherine Johnson, the mathematician and physicist played by Taraji P. Henson in the film.

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And it seems that Black Girls CODE isn’t the only group to find motivation in the story of Johnson and her colleagues Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. The film also prompted the Search for Hidden Figures, a scholarship contest from 21st Century Fox, PepsiCo, and the New York Academy of Sciences. Designed to help identify and develop the next generation of female STEM talent, the program will dole out $200,000 in scholarships to over 20 winners, who will be announced Jan. 12.

While Hidden Figures didn’t take home any Golden Globes at Sunday’s award ceremony, it did nab two nominations—and generate an unexpected Twitterstorm. After both NBC red carpet correspondent Jenna Bush Hager and Michael Keaton flubbed the name of the movie, calling it “Hidden Fences”—an apparent confusion with the Viola Davis and Denzel Washington vehicle Fences—Twitter users were quick to turn the slips into a meme playing on the racial undertones of conflating two African-American-driven films.

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