If your daughter loved Shuri in 'Black Panther,' she'll love these badass STEM programs.

I swear they didn't get it from me, but my daughters are mega math-haters.

Recently, my 13-year-old expressed her displeasure with her algebra homework, finally exclaiming, "Ugh, I hate math!"

Thankfully, her 17-year-old sister — who has declared her hatred for math many times herself — came to the rescue.


"Ella, you know what helps me lately when I get annoyed with my math homework?" she said. "I just picture Shuri in 'Black Panther.' She does math all day long, and she's awesome."

Squeee! God bless you, Marvel.

My girls have always been more interested in writing poetry than working out math problems, so I love that they find teen tech whiz Shuri inspiring. But there are a lot of girls out there who are math-, science-, and engineering-minded who have an uphill road ahead of them.

Actress Letitia Wright plays Shuri in "Black Panther." Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images.

Despite years of pushing for gender parity in the workplace, women are still greatly underrepresented in STEM careers.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Commerce evaluated the status of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers and found that even though women represented 48% of the overall workforce, they only represented 24% of STEM careers.

In 2017, they did the same evaluation. That time, they found that even though women represented 47% of the workforce, they only represented — wait for it — 24% of STEM careers.

In other words, the needle has barely moved for women in STEM in recent years.

But that doesn't mean things aren't changing for the next generation. As we're seeing with gun control, children and teens can be the ones to make big waves and change the tide on issues that affect them.

Of course, kids need tools and opportunity to make those waves. Thankfully, there are ways to help the future Shuris of the world get the hands-on STEM experience they need to make dreams a reality. Check out these five cool STEM initiatives by and for girls:

1. Project Upgrade YouTube series

Project Upgrade is a new digital build series — where digital technologies are used to create something — starring popular teen YouTubers the Merrell twins. The series was created to inspire more young women across America to pursue a career in STEM.

On the show, the twins team up with teen female coders, builders, and engineers as well as successful female mentors from across STEM career fields (including NASA, Disney Imagineering, and Google). Together, they design, build, and test a new consumer product in front of a live audience of girls. The series started March 10, 2018, and you can check out a preview on Veronica and Vanessa's YouTube channel:

2. Girls Who Code summer programs

For several years, Girls Who Code has hosted seven-week summer immersion program for 10th- and 11th-grade girls, and now they're offering a new summer program called Campus that consists of two-week intensive summer courses for middle and high school girls who want to learn to program.

Campus will be offered at high schools and colleges across six U.S. cities and will include classes for website design and development, wearable tech and fashion design, and iPhone app development. And as part of the program's commitment to inclusion and diversity, 20% of Campus seats will be held for need-based scholarship students.

3. Black Girls Code

Black Girls Code is "devoted to showing the world that black girls can code and do so much more." Based in San Francisco, the nonprofit recognizes the distinct racial divide in the tech sector — and the opportunities careers in STEM can offer underprivileged communities — so they focus on promoting classes and programs to grow the number of women of color working in technology. They host "hackathons" for girls ages 12 to 17, where participants work in teams to create solutions for social issues in their communities by building apps, games, and tools centered around a specific theme. They also focus on creativity, teamwork, and confidence in the tech world.

4. The "Invent it. Build It." conference

"Invent it. Build it." (IBII) is an annual conference put on by the Society of Women Engineers. It includes programming for girls in sixth grade and up — as well as educators — to spur interest and engagement in STEM activities. Students get to do hands-on engineering projects with experienced mentors while educators learn more about how to help girls prepare for engineering careers. The 2018 IBII conference will be in Minneapolis on Oct. 18.

Check out this video from the 2017 IBII conference to learn more about it:

5. Million Women Mentors

Girls interested in STEM can benefit greatly from experienced mentors offering them encouragement, advice, and inspiration. Million Women Mentors offers just that. The movement supports millions of mentors — both female and male — who help increase the interest and confidence of girls and women in STEM projects and careers. Individuals and organizations create a one- to four-year pledge to mentor a girl or woman in STEM for 20 hours a year.

Show your teens what these mentors said they'd have told their 15-year-old selves:

These are just some of the many great programs out there helping girls build on their math and science knowledge. Girls and young women need opportunities and encouragement to become the STEM giants we know they can be.

Who knows, maybe these kinds of initiatives combined with greater representation can help girls like my daughters decide that they don't hate math after all.

Can you imagine anything more badass than a world filled with Shuris? I can't.

GIF from "Black Panther."

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

The battle between millennials and older generations isn't exactly a generational war—it's more a case of mistaken generational identity. A decade ago, whining about millennials being young adults unprepared to make their way in the world at least made sense mathematically. But when people bag on millennials now they end up looking rather foolish.

A marketing researcher with a doctorate in social psychology wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune titled "Post-pandemic, some millennials finally decide to start #adulting." And when the Tribune shared it to Twitter, their since-deleted tweet read, "Writer Jennifer Rosner predicts COVID-10 lockdowns will force easy-breezy millennials to grow up."

Hoo boy.

Interestingly, the writer of the op-ed is a millennial herself, but she repeats generalizations about her entire generation that seem like they mainly apply to her own social circle. Read it yourself to decide, but regardless, the tweet of the op-ed itself set off a firestorm of responses from millennials who are tired of being painted as irresponsible young people who don't know how to "adult" instead of what they actually are.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.