Unusual Partnership Moves The Needle On Encouraging Black Girls To Pursue Science and Engineering Careers - Robert L. Wallace
Robert L. Wallace, Chairman of the President’s Roundtable (PRT) and Founder and CEO of BITHGROUP Technologies, Inc. cancelled his scheduled business trip so that he could escort his three granddaughters to see the hit movie, “Hidden Figures.” The blockbuster movie portrays the stellar Black women who pioneered careers at NASA back in the 50s/60s. They were phenomenal and played an integral part of NASA's success. Hidden Figures is the incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)—brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence and completely turned around the Space Race between Russia and the United States. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations of young women to dream big and to not take no for an answer.
Mr. Wallace was pleasantly surprised to see the empowering and positive reaction that the show had on his granddaughters. He states, “I have never seen my grandchildren so moved by a movie before. They were mesmerized by how these three African American female heroes endured and overcame the sexism and racism that they confronted in their pursuit of careers in engineering and science. At that moment, I thought to myself, “we need to find a way for all black girls in the Baltimore City School System to see this movie!””
It turned out that Mr. Wallace and the PRT were not the only ones who realized the positive influencing power the movie could have on young black girls. Thanks to Mr. Arnold Williams, partner in the Baltimore based accounting firm, Abrams, Foster, Noel, and Williams and himself a member of the PRT, the group was able to partner with an empowering organization called, Black Girls Vote (BGV) to develop an initiative where more than 425 black girls from the Baltimore School System would enjoy an all-expense paid viewing of the movie, “Hidden Figures.” Whiting-Turner, in conjunction with Exelon also saw the value and helped sponsor the wildly successful outing, which took place on February 19th at the Senator Movie Theatre.
Mr. Wallace provided some context for why this outing was so important. According to Robert, “The United States continues to lag behind China and India in the production of young engineers and scientists. The shortage has become so acute that it is negatively impacting American businesses (including my two companies – BITHGROUP Technologies, Inc. and Bithenergy) and consequently our global competitiveness. “To help close this gap The President's Roundtable (PRT), Black Girls Vote (BGV), Exelon, and Whiting-Turner stepped up to ensure that women and people of color are encouragedto pursue careers in science, engineering, and technology. Of particular interest and focus is the development and education of women of color, since they have historically been woefully underrepresented in these game-changing and life altering fields of endeavor.”
The PRT has historically been committed to providing scholarships, mentoring, and internships to promising young African-American students who are interested in the pursuit of technical education and a host of different degrees.
Robert further states, “The PRT did not want the fact that a young person did not have money for a ticket and/or transportation to be an impediment to them missing this educational experience, so by working with BGV, Exelon, and Whiting-Turner, we were able to purchase movie tickets for close to 500 students, pay for the buses to get them there, create a learning environment for them outside of the classroom, and provide meals for these special young women."
It turned out that Mr. Wallace’s vision was realized as he and other PRT members who stayed to watch the movie with the girls and then had a panel discussion afterwards, observed the young girl’s positive reaction to the movie. “It was like déjà vu all over again. These hundreds of girls exhibited the exact same reaction that my granddaughters did weeks earlier. As we loaded the young ladies onto their buses to return to school, I whispered to myself, mission accomplished. Thank you Lord!,” a satisfied Robert Wallace shared.