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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 #1 Hit Film

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Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures—the #1 NYT bestseller that inspired the #1 movie—is the true story of the Black women mathematicians who helped NASA land a man on the moon. Growing up, Margot heard these women’s stories from her father, a research scientist at NASA. It was only later in life that she realized how little these women’s contributions were known throughout the rest of the country—and decided she would make a change. In talks, Margot 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 was a top book of 2016 for both TIME and Publisher’s Weekly, USA Today bestseller, and a #1 (instant) New York Times bestseller. A powerful exploration of early intersectionality in the workplace—Hidden Figures reveals what the day-to-day life was like for Black women pursuing their dreams in the Civil Rights Era. Margot explores the barriers they had to break, the supporters along the way, and how they really felt through it all.

The film adaptation of her book—which became the #1 movie in America—stars Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, and Octavia Spencer was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

Margot was featured in the 2024 Pirelli Calendar, exploring the theme: “Timeless.” Spearheaded by Prince Gyasi, it is the first Pirelli Calendar to be shot by a Black photographer, and it spotlights Black trailblazers in every field! She’s featured alongside icons like Angela Bassett, Naomi Campbell, and Amanda Gorman (who poses with Margot!).

Margot is also the founder of the Human Computer Project, a digital archive telling the stories all of NASA’s “Human Computers,” women from all backgrounds whose work tipped the balance in favor of the United States in WWII, the Cold War, and the Space Race. Margot’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. Her research has been supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. She is currently a scholar-in-residence at the University of Virginia, with joint appointments at the McIntire School of Commerce and the School of Engineering.

Speech Topics

DEI: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
Hidden FiguresThe 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 more. 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.

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