You know the feeling...that sick feeling in your stomach or tightness in the chest when you or someone close to you is mistreated because of ignorance, prejudice or jealousy. These are just some of the visceral feelings we had watching Hidden Figures, the new movie about the real lives of three African-American women, Dorothy Johnson, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson who sought to fulfil their potential as mathematicians in NASA during the 60's.
Looking back at their story now some 50 years later, it's horrifying to see how people were mistreated through to the hatred of segregation but also confronting that women all over the world still experience daily oppression in all its forms when they simply go about being their best.
The tragedy for the world is when this oppression wins out over talent. Worn down by years of negativity, objectification, and the low expectations of others, too many women have to fend off what others believe their ‘rightful’ place in society to be.
This ‘avenue of low expectations’ eats away at hope, aspiration and most cruelly ability. The casualties may appear to be limited to individuals but in truth we all suffer as a society.
Fortunately the moral behind Hidden Figures has been repeated again and again by women who refused to have their dreams squashed by the corrosive bias of others.
Every heard of Letitia Geer, Mary Anderson or Tabitha Babbitt? Just like Dorothy, Katherine and Mary, these women are just a few of so many who have been written out of history and rightful acknowledgement for their contributions to our world through ground breaking ideas and products.
Lets put that right. We have Letitia to thank for inventing the medical syringe that has saved so many lives, and Mary for creating windscreen wipers that keep us safe when we drive in the rain and Tabitha for developing the circular saw that probably built the very home or building that you are sitting in right now.
One by one, these women said no to sexism, no to ignorance, no to racism and yes to potential, their own.
So next time someone tries to keep you or someone you know locked into the ‘avenue of low expectations’, consider taking the next exit and lookout for your nearest freeway to success. It won’t be well sign posted but you will meet people, amazing people along the way willing to help if you need it and who will value you for who you really are.