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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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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