Wakanda and the Workplace: Marvel’s Black Panther Empowers African American Women in Tech

Over the weekend, I like millions saw Marvel and Ryan Coogler’s amazing, inspiring and spectacular movie, BlackPanther. I went to see the movie with some of my AKA sorority sisters. It was an outstanding sisterly outing. We saw strong women (African American women) portray brave warriors, brilliant scientists, fearless spies, and queens. The movie truly is remarkable, and I can’t stop smiling every time I talk or think about it. We all stood taller after seeing the movie.

Marvel’s Black Panther and Diversity in the Workplace

We all are too familiar with the long-raised concerns about the lack of diversity and under-representation of women and persons of color in STEM, specifically African Americans. Diversity is high on the agenda for Ericsson, both to ensure its attractiveness as an employer of top talent, but also to stay competitive and to drive profitability. The business logic is straightforward: diversity sparks inclusion, innovation, and creativity, which makes companies’ offerings better, and thereby their business stronger. I believe an under-representation of tech enlightened, intelligent and independent women and African Americans in the media and movies also has a negative impact on self-esteem and identity of diverse persons and women. As a result, this unfortunately has a cumulative effect on the awareness and selection of tech careers by these groups.

But, in the movie Black Panther, women of color (African women) are presented in a monumental way. They are the pillars of strength for the plot and the action. The architect of Wakanda’s technology and its Princess, Shuri, is just 16 years old – she is technically brilliant. She engineered the Black Panther suit so that it not only repels blasts, but stores kinetic energy for later use. She equips her brother, the King, and their entire people with the cutting-edge technology, armor and weaponry that enables them to kick some serious butt – like in the heart pounding and fantastic Busan chase scene.  And, she’s a medical marvel performing advanced lifesaving procedures with superior technology.

I’ve been reading a lot about Wakanda. In fact, they’ve already cured cancer in Wakanda. Women of Wakanda are the heart and the soul of the story, and they are the strength of Wakanda and its King. They are the healers, the scientists and the warriors. Wakanda is a nation at the forefront of technology and science and the Princess of Wakanda has the technical prowess and knowledge to go toe-to-toe with any man, both physically and mentally.

Inspiring Women and Persons of Color to Pursue Technology

As an employer brand and diversity talent acquisition leader and an African American woman, I’m excited about the pride and appetite for science this movie has stirred among young girls and African Americans. There is an old saying, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” I don’t think that saying is always true, but when you don’t see women or African Americans leading technology advancement, it can be hard for young women and persons of color to strive toward a STEM career.

I believe the movie Black Panther will inspire and encourage many girls and persons of color to press toward their goal. I’m ecstatic to see the positive impact to the recruitment of women and persons of color. It may not be immediate, but I’m hopeful we’ll see the effects in the very near future with more women and African Americans choosing a STEM career effecting their  interests, outlook and career trajectories.

Since seeing the movie, I’ve been reading to see what’s coming up next. If the comics are any indications of the future, the women of Wakanda will be key players in the upcoming Marvel movie. They will also continue the advancement of technology keeping its citizens educated and informed – inspiring young women and African Americans at every turn.  They’ve certainly inspired me and I can’t wait for the next movie. Wakanda Forever!


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Lisa Smith-Strother
Lisa was a marketing professional in the financial services arena for nearly 20 years before moving into the Employer Brand and Recruitment Marketing space.
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