Earth’s Mightiest Heroines: 15 Films and Shows with Women in STEM
Written by Anna Divinagracia
Edited by Jeri Francine Tavera
“The whole of life is just like watching a film,” writer Terry Pratchett once said. Romance, comedy, tragedy; a movie for the bored, for the tired, for the inspired, and for all — a film for every moment, a show for every time. We love to binge-watch our favorite movie trilogies, and we groan at the moment the screen blacks out after the season finale. Some of us watch movies to pass the time, and some to be inspired by our favorite characters.
Here are fifteen of Earth’s mightiest heroines, female movie and TV show characters the nerdiest of us love.
Riley Davis, MacGyver (2016 – Present)
There is nothing this woman can’t hack. From changing the traffic lights to infiltrating government files, Riley Davis is your go-to girl. The trio that composes the MacGyver series wouldn’t be complete without her saving the day, as usual. Fun fact: she was imprisoned for doing the very thing that earned her her current job. Talk about taking your hobbies to the next level.
Delphine Cormier & Cosima Niehaus, Orphan Black (2013 – 2017)
Human cloning is the name of the game, and Delphine and Cosima know just about everything there is to play. A clone herself, Cosima enrolled for a PhD in Experimental Evolutionary Developmental Biology where she took up everything there is to learn about cloning. Life became more fascinating when she met Delphine, a French scientist, at an institute for the advancement of biotechnology. Fun fact: Tatiana Maslany, who plays Cosima, plays a total of more than a dozen clones in the series: a cop, some killers (yes), a man (how?), a manicurist, and more.
Abby Sciuto, NCIS (2003 – Present)
She may look like your basic goth girl — with the jet black hair and black outfits —, but Abby is a master in forensic science. The lab is her home: where she solves crimes and uses her skills to unravel mysteries, leaving most surprised at her powers. You can say she’s a master of the dark arts, and a great one at that.
Temperance Brennan, Bones (2005 – 2017)
The show is called Bones for a reason; forensics is the game in Dr. Brennan’s lab. Dr. Brennan and her diverse team deal with bones of the dead; they are experts in the field of forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology. With the help of her team, the FBI is able to track down murderers that are sloppy enough to leave clues for her to find.
Amy Fowler & Bernadette Rostenkowski, The Big Bang Theory (2007 – 2019)
If comedy and science are two things that make your day, these two scientists will surely make your life complete. While juggling adulthood, relationships, and their STEM careers, these duo of The Big Bang Theory bunch will tickle your funny bone at any moment. Fowler, with a PhD in neuroscience, and Rostenkowski, a waitress-turned-microbiologist, show us two scientists living normal lives; something students pursuing STEM can definitely relate to.
Darlene Alderson, Mr. Robot (2015 – 2019)
She may look like your typical girl on the street, jacket and all, but don’t let looks deceive you. Just like her colleagues, she knows more than a thing or two about hacking the world’s largest corporations and revealing their injustices to the masses. Just be careful when you give her a drink; she might bring the whole bottle home.
Cassandra Railly, 12 Monkeys (2015 – 2018)
What would you do if an incurable plague hit the whole world and you knew what the future in 2043 would look like? Well, Dr. Cassandra Railly of 2015 would definitely try to find the cure and save the unsavable. Using her knowledge in science and technology, she tries to stop the future from happening and devotes her life to saving the human race as we know it.
Cameron Howe, Halt and Catch Fire (2014 – 2017)
Being a tech-, engineering-, and computer-savvy woman in 1983 is a great feat, considering that your big bosses and your colleagues will most certainly be prejudiced males. Taking the risk, Cameron Howe is one of these strong women, ready to reverse engineer her way through the secrets of tech companies IBM and Microsoft.
Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, & Mary Jackson, Hidden Figures (2016)
They turned their experience into motivation; given what they’ve been through, they deserve more than what we’re giving them. They are the brilliant mathematicians behind NASA. Wondering why your teachers aren’t talking about them in school? Apparently, discrimination has been rampant then and is still rampant now. These women have broken the boundaries of race and gender and have brought men into space with their minds.
Jillian Holtzmann, Erin Gilbert, & Abby Yates, Ghostbusters (2016)
Ghosts are their forte, and science is their weapon. These Ghostbusters saved New York City when no one believed them. Just like the original Ghostbusters, this remake combines the paranormal and the scientific. Unlike the original however, the women wear the uniform and destroy the green blobs. Most of all, they show us how women in technology need to stick together as a team to fend off the ghosts of our time. (Special mention to Patty Tolan, the fourth member of the Ghostbusters! It turns out that anyone can save the world if only we believed and helped the right people.)
Dana Scully, The X-Files (1993 – 2018)
She is considered to be one of the most inspirational fictional women on television, leading women to pursue their dreams of becoming women in STEM, a phenomenon known as “The Scully Effect.” The sci-fi show deals with aliens and paranormal cases that Agent Scully and her colleagues are assigned to, with Agent Scully showing us her expertise in the field of STEM.
Princess Shuri, Black Panther (2018)
Most likely, you have watched this Marvel movie because you like Marvel (at least, that’s what I did). You’ve seen the technology Wakanda has to offer, but you’ve probably missed how amazing the girl behind the scenes is. From designing her brother’s Black Panther suit to creating weapons that can kill, Shuri is a master at invention. After watching Black Panther, there’s no doubt that she’s up there with Iron Man in the tech field.
Felicity Smoak & Caitlin Snow, Arrow (2012 – 2020) & The Flash (2014 – Present)
Sure enough, DC lovers know who these ladies are. The hacker and bio-engineer are hand-in-hand in leading the women in STEM of the DC Universe, despite the lack of these kinds of women in their stories. The two work for Star Technologies and Palmer Technologies in their respective cities, for the greater good of the world. Along with their team, the two deal with vigilantes, time travel, and more threats from the world we live in.
Go Go Tomago & Honey Lemon, Big Hero 6 (2014)
As a kid, knowing what you want to be when you grow up is a difficult feat. Luckily, there are some animated movies that inspire women to become what they want to be, regardless of stereotypes. These two characters are worlds apart in terms of their personality (and outfits!), but they’re definitely in sync when it comes to developing their tech projects. In the process, because of their smarts, they get to save the world.
Joan Clarke, The Imitation Game (2014)
“Sometimes, the people who no one imagines anything of do the things no one can imagine.” In a room filled with men who are dying to help build the world’s first computer, Miss Clarke was the first to complete the puzzle that started her career. Amidst the expectations of her parents and her fellow females at Bletchley Park, Joan outsmarted Britain and worked her way up to the great minds that built the supercomputer that outsmarted Germany’s Enigma. The worst part? She had to keep it a secret.
And those were just some of the amazing women we can be in the future. Being a scientist, an inventor, or a web developer isn’t easy, and it sure as hell is harder when you’re a woman. Our heroes make us realize that it isn’t impossible, even if it can be discouraging at times. Learn from fiction and reality: never give up.