Why Young Female Techies Are Inspired By Shuri From ‘Black Panther’

Written by Ann Brown

The film the “Black Panther” was groundbreaking on many levels. Not only was it a breakthrough Black film, it made many fans of the film feel empowered. Among those that were inspired by the successful film were young Black girls interested in the tech world. And they were most inspired by the character Shuri, portrayed by actress Letitia Wright. Shuri is the likable teen gadget genius and engineering mastermind.

It was a role Wright, 24, relished. “[Shuri] shows that when you have people coming together to just take time to make characters well-rounded, well-thought-out, not one way, amazing things like that happen,” the Guyanese actress told HuffPost. “Having a character arc and journey is refreshing, so it’s good writing…Now there’s a breakthrough of [audiences] seeing people [they] relate to and that’s refreshing.”

Now Wright, who has appeared in several British TV series, is using the character’s popularity to encourage more young women to work in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). Currently, women of color made up less than 10 percent of working scientists and engineers in the U.S. in 2015.

“I got a lot of messages, especially from young women, who were so happy to see themselves on screen, they were so happy to see someone making science and technology cool,” Wright told Mashable.

She added: “Shuri is appealing and inspiring to so many women around the world because she’s just relatable, she’s like, a princess but everything about her is ‘girl next door. So many young girls saw themselves like, that’s me, that’s how I pick on my brother, that’s how I think about things, that’s how I get excited about creating.”

To help encourage more women to enter STEM, Wright is supporting Shell’s Eco-marathon. This is a global energy efficiency competition sponsored by Shell in which participants build automotive vehicles to achieve the highest possible fuel efficiency.

Through the Eco-marathon, Wright met four female engineering students who she described to Mashable as “the most amazing group of people I’ve met so far.” “They made my responsibility of playing Shuri even more real. They’re really motivated to make our world better and I would not be surprised if they created the next thing that moves us forward in terms of technology.”

Wright says she wants to see more funding for women to get into STEM and to also see the stigma removed. In fact, she said many young girls see how it is “cool” to be smart and/or a tech nerd. This will make way for change in the sector.  “We can have another Steve Jobs, but a female one,” she said.

Letitia Wright arrives at the world premiere of “Avengers: Infinity War” on Monday, April 23, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)