Two and a half weeks ago, I went to watch Hidden Figures it was a great movie. However, from an HR perspective, the movie is phenomenal. Hidden Figures is movie based on three African American women who worked for NASA and their contributions to NASA.
The setting is in 1961.
For anyone who works in HR in the United States, you’ll notice the date is a full three years BEFORE the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII.
In the new age of company lunches, nap pods, and other enticing benefits, we never think about things that we take for granted so here are some of the moments in the movie that really rang true.
- We dress pretty much how we want (within limitations of our dress code) – Okay, so we can’t wear a clubbing dress to work or flip flops, but relative to 1961, we have a lot of freedoms in terms of dress. There’s a scene in Hidden Figures where Katherine Goble is told that she is not allowed to wear any kind of jewelry except pearls and she responds saying she doesn’t have pearls. I’m pretty sure my fake pearls don’t count either.
- It’s not surprising when a woman is smart – All three women struggle with the issues of gender equality, but when Katherine is one of the few women who works in an all-male profession at the time. As the years have passed, in 2017, we see women in all sorts of professions. I’m not saying there is an exact 50%/50% split, but we are a far cry from the 1 out of 40 people in the room situation.
- We don’t have to run a half a mile to get to “our” bathroom – Our bathrooms are not segregated by race. In fact, in California, as of March 1, 2017, single-user restrooms will become gender neutral after Governor Brown signed AB1732. There’s a scene where Harrison gets extremely upset at Katherine for disappearing from her desk for stretches of time each day. And there’s an emotional scene where she explains that she has been running a half a mile to go use the colored women’s bathroom on the other side of the NASA campus.
- We have access to technology at the tips of our fingers – When I saw the first IBM computer and how they couldn’t get it into the room, I couldn’t stop laughing. Especially when nobody knows how to use it and Dorothy figures it out. Today, we really have so much information at the tips of our fingers, we have no excuse not to know something or look it up. In fact, with the new technology that we have, we should be learning more skills and new skills every day to help us work more efficiently and productively.
- Gender equality in professions – After Title VII of the Civil Rights was passed, there was finally a federal law that prevents employers from discrimination against employees based on sex, race, color, national origin, and origin. Although there’s no guarantee that discrimination will be prevented, it was definitely a step in the right direction to creating the workplace atmosphere we know today. There’s a moving scene in the movie where Mary is impeded from her future as an engineer because they require her to take additional classes. She goes on to ask the judge to allow her to take classes at an all-white high school, claiming that the judge will finally have a chance to be first in giving her the chance to become an engineer.
Go out and see the movie if you haven’t yet. And remember when your job is awful, you can definitely innovate and create change even within a well-defined role.
But what do I know? I’m…
~Just the HR Girl