Margot Lee Shetterly

A greater diversity of voices in science, in the STEM fields, is key to the future of American innovation.

Author of Hidden Figures: the #1 New York Times bestseller, and inspiration for the #1 movie.

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Margot Lee Shetterly | Author of Hidden Figures: the #1 New York Times bestseller, and inspiration for the #1 movie.

Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures—a #1 NYT bestseller and inspiration for the #1 movie in America—is the true story of the black women mathematicians at NASA who helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. In talks, Shetterly celebrates these unsung heroes, teasing out issues of race, gender, science, and innovation against the backdrop of WWII and the Civil Rights Era.

Writer, researcher, and entrepreneur Margot Lee Shetterly is the author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, which is a top book of 2016 for both TIME and Publisher’s Weekly, a USA Today bestseller, and a #1 (and instant) New York Times bestseller. 

 

The film adaptation of her book—which became the number one movie in America—stars Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner. It has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, and Octavia Spencer has been nominated for Best Supporting Actress. To The New York Times, the film introduces viewers to “real people you might wish you had known more about earlier … [who] can fill you with outrage at the persistence of injustice and gratitude toward those who had the grit to stand up against it.”

 

Shetterly is also the founder of the Human Computer Project, a digital archive of the stories of NASA’s African-American “Human Computers” whose work tipped the balance in favor of the United States in WWII, the Cold War, and the Space Race. Shetterly’s father was among the early generation of black NASA engineers and scientists, and she had direct access to NASA executives and the women featured in the book. She grew up around the historically black Hampton University, where some of the women in Hidden Figures studied. Along with Aran Shetterly, Shetterly co-founded the magazine Inside Mexico. She graduated from The University of Virginia, and is a 2014 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow.

Speech Topics

Diversity & Race
Hidden Figures The Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
Audiences of all backgrounds will be captivated by the phenomenal true story of the black “human computers” who used math to change their own lives—and their country’s future. Set against the rich backdrop of World War II, the Space Race, the Civil Rights Era, and the burgeoning fight for gender equality, this talk brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, who worked as mathematicians at NASA during the golden age of space travel. Teaching math at segregated schools in the South, they were called into service during the WWII labor shortages. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had jobs worthy of their skills at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, in Hampton, Virginia. Even as Jim Crow laws segregated them from their white counterparts, the women of this all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. They were part of a group of hundreds of black and white women who, over the decades, contributed to some of NASA’s greatest successes. 

In this keynote, Margot Lee Shetterly talks about race, gender, science, the history of technology, and much else. She shows us the surprising ways that women and people of color have contributed to American innovation while pursuing the American Dream. In sweeping, dramatic detail, she sheds light on a forgotten but key chapter in our history, and instills in us a sense of wonder, and possibility.