Letitia Wright is a superhero. In Marvel’s smash-hit Black Panther, the Guyana-born, London-raised actress plays Shuri, a Wakanda princess, the most intelligent person in the Marvel Universe, and the head of the Wakandan Design Group, the engineering force behind the country’s coolest innovations, from her brother’s Black Panther suit to her own killer kitten paws.
Now, the star is focusing her power on a mission to change real-life perceptions about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) with a new short film, Engineering Real Life Heros.
Hoping to inspire more women and girls to pursue STEM, Wright wants to make women’s STEM stories visible. ‘I strongly believe that you have to see something in order for you to understand you can do it,’ she says. ‘That’s why I feel representation is so important.’
In an effort to break down the barriers that stop young people, and in particular, young women, pursue careers in the sector, where just 23% of the workforce is female, Wright meets with Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE. A one-time child maths prodigy, Imafidon is the co-founder of Stemettes, a London-based social enterprise encouraging girls aged between 5–22 years old to pursue STEM.
Together, they discuss what it takes to be involved in STEM, and document the stories of four female innovators as they work to build an eco-friendly car capable of travelling more than 3,771 km on a single litre of petrol. The distance, which is further than the distance from London to Rome and back, is the current record travelled on a single litre of petrol in the Shell Eco-Marathon, a global competition for students to design, build and drive ultra-energy-efficient vehicles.
‘I’m thrilled that I got to tell the stories of these incredibly talented young women, who are real-life embodiments of what STEM really is about,’ says Wright. ‘It would mean a lot to me if a girl could watch this film and think they too could do what these young women do.’
For more on the women in STEM movement, see our feature on the women’s collectives transforming London’s entrepreneurship scene.