Happy STEM Day! Here’s a STEM fact: this article in Medium points out that women of colour are virtually invisible in STEM fields. According to Kassandra Burd, “we need to see more WOC STEM individuals in the spotlight” to spur on other girls and women of colour interested in pursuing careers and interests in these fields. Today, in support of that, we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate 10 fictional women of colour in STEM.
RAVEN REYES, The 100
(Portrayed by Lindsey Morgan)
Raven Reyes has been one of The 100‘s standout characters from the very first season. At just eighteen years old, she was the youngest zero-g mechanic on survival space station The Ark in 52 years. In season one, Raven sustained a gunshot wound that left her paralysed from the left knee down, but the strength she showed in dealing with and overcoming her disability was nothing short of inspiring. Throughout The 100’s six-year run, her brilliant mind has saved her friends and all of humankind on many occasions..
(Portrayed by Claudia Doumit)
Timeless was a short-lived miracle of a show, famously getting axed and then resurrected for a final season thanks to the persistence of its small but passionate fanbase. This underrated show had a lot going for it—government conspiracies, time travel, pretty costumes, Abigail Spencer—but one of the best things about it was engineer-turned-time-machine-pilot, Jiya. She’s spunky, kind, and the selfless love she showed her friends and her man was the kind of love we all deserve to experience in our own lives.
SHURI, Marvel Cinematic Universe
(Portrayed by Letitia Wright)
You can’t talk about fictional female characters in STEM without giving Shuri her due recognition. Declared to be the smartest person in the entire MCU (a universe that includes the likes of Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Hank Pym, just to start), this Wakandan princess is no delicate flower to be trifled with. Even then, her unmatched intelligence is just one of the reasons why we love her. That, as well as her tongue-in-cheek wit, resolute bravery, and unfailing loyalty to her family and her kinsfolk.
ELLA LOPEZ, Lucifer
(Portrayed by Aimee Garcia)
What’s great about Ella is that she overturns the trope most commonly applied to highly intelligent, STEM-focused characters—the struggle with processing emotion. It’s almost refreshing that this pint-sized forensic scientist is very well the best at expressing and dealing with emotional ups and downs on the entire show, second only to Linda Martin, Lucifer’s therapist. A character as upbeat and peppy as Ella could easily become annoying (and she certainly is to the other characters), but Aimee Garcia’s delightful performance is anchored with more than enough sincerity to endear her to viewers.
NAOMI NAGATA, The Expanse
(Portrayed by Dominique Tipper)
The Expanse is a criminally underrated show. It boasts a fantastic cast of actors, intriguing conflicts and plotlines, and some really, really good sci-fi. One of the best parts about it is Rocinante engineer Naomi Nagata. She’s a self-made success story in every way, having struggled with loss, pain and poverty all throughout her childhood and carving her own path to independence and freedom by empowering herself with knowledge and skills that make her an invaluable asset to any team. In addition to her encyclopaedic smarts and wry humour, she’s also one of the most compassionate characters on the show.
MAKO MORI, Pacific Rim
(Portrayed by Rinko Kikuchi)
Mako Mori is a beast. She’s not just a whiz with mechanics and engineering—she’s a perfect scorer in the Jaeger simulator, she’s formidable in hand-to-hand combat, and she’s better than you. She pushes everyone around her to be the best versions of themselves, whether it’s by example or sheer stubbornness, and she honours the people she loves with every fibre of her being. It’s probably not too much of a stretch to say that given a chance, she would’ve been the first President of Earth and kicked ass at it. (Excuse me while I completely ignore Pacific Rim: Uprising’s existence.)
JOELLE BROOKS, Dear White People
(Portrayed by Ashley Blaine Featherson)
One of the best things Dear White People ever did is to recognise Joelle Brooks’ power as a compelling character. Over three seasons, Joelle undergoes a remarkable growth, and while she retains the same critical, sarcastic attitude she’s been sporting since episode one, she’s noticeably different by the end of season three—a little more mature, a little more thoughtful, a little more sensitive and a little more confident. Her major at Winchester University is never explicitly mentioned, but there have been a few scenes of her in lab sessions. Her fabulous sense of style is definitely a huge bonus as to why this character is a certified screen gem.
ROSE TICO, Star Wars
(Portrayed by Kelly Marie Tran)
Sorry trolls (not really), but Rose Tico is the best new character of The Last Jedi. Rose is the first time we saw a woman of colour play a major part in a decades-old franchise infamous for favouring white women with dark hair. She breaks the mold for Star Wars women in more ways than one—she’s neither a politician nor a Jedi, nor is she the daughter of someone important. She’s just a regular worker bee, an unranked mechanic from Maintenance, of all places. But Rose is the embodiment of the quote “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” Her values and integrity hold true no matter what, and with Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker coming in December, I can’t wait to see more of the resolute selflessness and simple wisdom that made her one of the absolute best parts of The Last Jedi.
MICHELLE JONES, Marvel Cinematic Universe
(Portrayed by Zendaya)
Zendaya’s version of MJ has won over hordes of fans thanks to her snarky, deadpan delivery and squinty skepticism, but what many people seem to overlook in their adoration is that Michelle Jones is smart. Like, really, really smart. She appears in scenes reading books that would probably be more appropriate of a college student—one with especially sophisticated taste. Not only is she on the academic decathlon team with Peter, eventually being named captain, she’s the one who wins the decathlon. The entire thing. And she doesn’t even break a sweat doing it. Fellow MCU teenaged genius Shuri would be proud.
BONUS: EMILY LOCKE, Powerless
(Portrayed by Vanessa Hudgens)
It’s been over two years since Powerless was cancelled, and I’m still in mourning. The show was endearing, heartwarming, and a giant breath of the freshest air in a sea of superhero/superpower-themed shows that favoured a grim-dark style of storytelling. (If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend giving its one and only season a watch.) As the newly appointed Director of Research & Development for Wayne Security, Emily was cheerful, optimistic and endlessly hopeful, and while all that can be grating for some, she was also written and performed with a loving nuance that elevated her out of airhead territory and made her undeniably human through and through.
Edited By: Lauren Hailey