ASME Supports Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act
Apr 26, 2019
Long-overdue recognition of women "computers," mathematicians and engineers at NASA an inspiration for girls and minorities pursuing STEM careers
NEW YORK (April 10, 2019) — The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has submitted a letter of support for H.R. 1396, the "Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act," to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), the first female and the first underrepresented minority chair of the House committee on science, space, and technology. The legislation would award Congress’ highest civilian honor to the women working as computers, mathematicians, and engineers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its precursor organization, the National Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), from the 1930s to the 1970s. Support for the bill underscores ASME’s commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusion in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce and wholehearted agreement in the long-overdue recognition of the role and contributions of hundreds of women at NASA.
"The U.S. economy relies on the productivity, creativity, and entrepreneurship of all U.S. citizens. ASME is pleased that these women, who made significant contributions to aerospace development while persevering and overcoming discrimination, are getting the recognition they deserve," says ASME Executive Director/CEO Tom Costabile. "We applaud Rep. Johnson’s leadership in championing this important legislation and the positive message it will send to girls and underrepresented minorities in pursuit of STEM careers."
Borrowing its name from Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 best-selling nonfiction book and an Oscar-nominated film adaptation, the Hidden Figures Act will authorize the awarding of five Congressional Gold Medals: individual medals to Katherine Johnson, Dr. Christine Darden, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson; and one medal to honor contributions of the hundreds of women computers, mathematicians, and engineers whose names have largely been lost to history. These women made significant contributions to aircraft testing and design during World War II, supersonic flight research, and landing the first man on the moon. However, black women working at NACA and NASA were initially subjected to segregated bathrooms, dining facilities, and water fountains. In addition, all women mathematicians working at NACA and NASA during this period were required to submit their calculations anonymously and restricted to sub-professional positions which limited their opportunities for career advancement in comparison to their male counterparts.
The House version of the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act introduced by Rep. Johnson currently has 93 co-sponsors and must be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives during this legislative session. The Senate passed a bipartisan companion bill (S.3321), introduced by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on March 28, 2019. Once passed, this bi-partisan legislation would be sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
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