Why Black Panther’s Shuri Is Important for Young Girls in S.T.E.M.

 

 

By: Sasha Charlemagne

Photo: Marvel Studios

Marvel’s Black Panther is the first comic-book-based film in decades to have a Black protagonist and this has not gone unnoticed. Everyone has been buzzing about Black Panther and the important role the film plays in providing representation for Black people, especially young Black children. While most of us are focusing on T’challa, his younger sister Shuri is also a role model for a noticeably underrepresented group; Black women in S.T.E.M. fields. As the movie gains popularity and the discussions surrounding it become even more prominent, it is clear that Letitia Wright’s portrayal of Shuri is already setting itself up to be a long lasting figure in the minds of young girls everywhere.

Aside from being T'Challa's sister, Shur is responsible for all of the technology he utilizes in battle throughout the film (including that ridiculously good looking panther suit). While many Marvel films have included strong female characters who are praised for their intelligence, none have ever been this intensely relied on for their sheer brilliance while being closely in competition with the protagonist in terms of intelligence and creative ability.

 

Photo: Marvel Studios “Black Panther” (2018)

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, young girls consistently perform just as well as boys their age on standardized science and math tests but do not go on to pursue college degrees and careers in these fields at a similar rate. The skills are obviously there. It is the encouragement and inspiration that is lacking. Only 10.7% of Computer/Electrical Engineers are women. That number dips to 7.9% when discussing female Mechanical Engineers. In January of 2017,  the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) released the 2017 Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering (WMPD) report. The report showed that minority women comprised fewer than 1 in 10 employed scientists and engineers.

As a tech wiz who is also a Black woman, Shuri is an astounding source of inspiration for all out little future techies who are about to rule the world with brains and girl power.

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