5 Must Have Qualities in Your Sisterhood Inspired by "Hidden Figures"
Hidden Figures was such a phenomenal and inspiring movie! Everyone, especially women, especially WOMEN OF COLOR, should go see this movie now! Not only was the acting, story line, visuals extremely well done, but also Hidden Figures literally brings to the light the women of color who helped make the 1962 NASA space mission possible and successful! The movie dares to defy the many stereotypes placed on women, especially women of color—Why, yes! Women of color are intelligent, beautiful, hard working, in healthy marriages, and kick ass in STEM careers!
Hidden Figures paints a beautiful illustration of the resiliency, strength, and importance of sisterhood while navigating what can often be a hostile world that women of color face due to both their race or ethnicity and gender— in life and in the workplace. Though we are out of the old Jim Crow era, women of color still battle with similar obstacles everyday. While having car troubles on the way to work, a police officer treated the Sisterhood of Hidden Figures (Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughn) initially with skepticism. Mary had to petition to the courts to attend an all-white school to receive the necessary training to become the 1st black woman engineer at NASA. Dorothy was forced to serve as supervisor without the title or the pay. Katherine had to literally step out of her comfort zone to work in a hostile work environment for her country.
It was incredibly refreshing to not only have my history told, but to also witness a true resemblance of sisterhood on the big screen. Too often, the media depicts women of color as competitors and “bitchy”. Taraji P. Henson, starring as Katherine Johnson, put it perfectly during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter at the Toronto Film Festival in September:
You see women [in the movie] come together and support each other. Not cat-claw, fight [and] hate on each other for one role. But when you embrace each other and you stick together— look what these women were able to accomplish. The power in women sticking together— we will change the world.
— Taraji P. Henson
The following are 5 essential qualities that should be evident in your sisterhood that Hidden Figures taught us. If your tribe doesn’t embody these traits, then you may want to have a heart-to-heart with the members of your sisterhood to get everyone on the path to synchronized greatness:
Quality #1: Transparency & Honesty
When she complains about Vivian not promoting her to supervisor though she does the work of a supervisor, Dorothy mentions how she is frustrated seeing her friends move up while she is still being held back. She follows up the statement exclaiming nevertheless that she is indeed happy for both Katherine and Mary. Noticing how upset Dorothy was feeling, the ladies broke out the moonshine to dance her troubles away, even if only temporarily.
This moment really resonated with me because I believe the foundation of a strong sisterhood is built on transparent and honest conversations. The ability to have tough conversations, share truthful opinions, and divulge the intimate details of one’s life does not come easy. After all, with authenticity comes vulnerability. However, we should learn to be okay with being vulnerable, especially with our closest friends.
When we are not honest with our friends, we prevent them from being able to be there for us— and vice versa.
Quality #2: Mutual Support
Throughout Hidden Figures, the mutual support among the Sisterhood was clearly evident. They encouraged one another to reach their goals, respected one another, offered assistance when the other needed help, and much more.
Strong and stable sisterhoods are rife with mutual support— “give and take”. Personally, I think that respect and love are the essence of mutual support. If you respect your friend, you will support her, even if you don't support her situation. If you love your friend, you will show effort to nourish the friendship, even through small actions. The same should hold true among all in your inner circle.
Quality #3: Accountability
Mary desires to become an engineer. Since the schools with engineering programs are segregated, she had to petition a judge to allow her to attend an all-white school to earn her engineering degree.
Now let me be honest, I don’t exactly remember if Dorothy or Katherine asked Mary for updates or provided gentle nudges to hold Mary accountable throughout the movie. However in reality, it is 100% believable that they did so, because accountability is a critical element of sisterhood. I can vividly imagine Dorothy and Katherine offering to stay in for ladies night so that Mary can have an audience to practice the speech for her hearing. I can equally imagine Dorothy and Katherine pulling Mary aside to ask for updates regarding her confirming her court date and filing her school registration.
If you have been wanting to do something for months or even years, and no one from your circle has kicked you in the rump to MOVE, you need to bounce and find a tribe that will hold you accountable.
Your inner circle of sister friends should hold one another accountable for meeting goals, making the right decisions, and being true to one’s self. If everyone in your circle agrees with everything you say, and everything you do, then you need to seriously consider finding a new tribe.
Quality #4: Celebrate Life’s Successes
The Sisterhood of Hidden Figures celebrated many life successes with one another: Katherine being assigned to the Space Task Group and eventually leading the effort to safely launch and bring back John Glenn. Mary receiving permission to attend the all-white school, later earning engineering degree. Dorothy being promoted to the IBM programming department supervisor.
Honestly, the quality of having friends who will celebrate you and with you is self-explanatory. Life is more enjoyable when your sisterhood celebrates the small and big successes! Did your friend finally jump back into the dating pool after a rough break up? #PopChampagne Did you close on that new house? #BottlesUp Dropped a pants size by changing her eating and exercise habits? #BringOnTheSkinnyMargaritas
Quality #5: Lift Each Other Up #literally
When Dorothy discovers that the IBM system could put her and the other black “computers” out of work, she becomes proficient in FORTRAN and trains her coworkers how to program too. When there is a need for computer programs, Dorothy arranges for a permanent assignment as computer programmers for all of the women, citing that they are short on manpower. Dorothy announces to the black “computers” that they’ve all been reassigned and they walk collectively to their new department.
Imagine if Dorothy didn’t teach the other black “computers” how to program in FORTRAN. Her coworkers would have lost their livelihoods. Truthfully, Dorothy would have likely been commissioned to train her white counterparts, who would eventually replace her too, how to program.
Every member of your tribe should be equally committed to seeing one another succeed in life. Share your juice! If you got the juice, ensure you all got the juice!
“I just want the juice, so I can give ya’ll the juice!” my Rice sisterhood and I often joke– but there is every ounce of seriousness behind that statement! My friends and I are not afraid to see one of us “pass” the other up. This is because we are eager and willing to provide each other with resources, professional connections, and yes even sometimes money to move us all to the next level!