Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE is a fearless leader in STEM, inspiring countless girls, young women and young non-binary people around the world to pursue their love of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
As founder of STEMettes, the award-winning social enterprise launched in 2013, Anne-Marie has become a champion of diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity in this typically male-dominated world.
“I founded the STEMettes almost 10 years ago, to ensure that young girls, young women, and young non-binary people, have space to explore and see themselves as innovators. But also, to help them make informed decisions about their relationship to STEM.”
Anne-Marie, who earned a Masters in maths and computing science from Oxford University, launched STEMettes when she realised that as a woman in tech, she was part of a shrinking minority.
“The proportion we have of folks with my gender in the industry is quite small,” she says. “It’s grown a little bit in recent years, but it isn’t proportional to the society that we’re serving. I wanted to do something about that.”
Businesses and organisations also have a vital role to play in encouraging the younger generation to get involved in STEM. Anne-Marie believes promoting aspects of STEM that aren’t talked about, or covered in the curriculum, is key.
“We need to be talking about creativity. We want to show that this is about making, inventing, and innovating,” she says. “It’s also about altruism; solving problems and helping people, which again, people don’t always talk about [in relation to] STEM.
Then finally, we want to be talking about the diversity of options that we have across STEM. In the roles, routes, and pathways, and in the spaces across industry, academia, and entrepreneurship. Allowing folks to see that it’s not just a case of fitting into one mold. There are lots of different ways that you can be in STEM.”
On finding her way into STEM
“My journey into STEM came from curiosity and wanting to solve problems. From a young age, I was taking things apart, trying to understand how they worked, and why they worked. I was building databases to try and help teachers out and store grades and all the rest of that in my school. So for me, getting into STEM was about having a fantastic tool, almost like a paintbrush, to make anything that I wanted or anything that I imagined.”
On heroes and herstory
“I think we need to tell better stories. There are certain narratives that we have that only cover one side of history. This is about the herstory as well, and lots of different types of people that have contributed to the version of STEM that we have today.
“There are so many more stories that I’m aware of now, that I wasn’t [aware of] growing up. It wasn’t something that was shared with people like me. So, whether that’s Gladys West, who is the reason that we have GPS, or Stephanie Shirley, who’s one of our fantastic tech pioneers here in the UK, whether it’s women like Catherine Johnson who was a computer mathematician at NASA.
“Encouraging and inspiring future generations is about allowing them to see everyone has a part to play in building what happens next.”
“We ran a STEM entrepreneurship programme back in 2015, with 115 young women from across Europe. One of them recently got in touch to thank us for all the skills that she’d learned, and the people that she’d met. She now runs a business and has been able to buy a home. She wrote to us and said, ‘me and my family are not going to be homeless ever again because of the skills that you taught me.’ And that’s the ultimate success story. This is what it feels like to be empowered by STEM.”
“We get stories all the time of folks who have discovered cyber, been able to build careers with biology and art coming together, computational art, all kinds of exciting things. We’ve had fashion designers come through that are using AI and bringing biology in, and creating some fantastic things.”
Her advice for those keen to get into STEM
“For anyone trying to pursue a future career in STEM, my advice is don’t do it on your own. There are mentors, there are programmes, there are initiatives, there are spaces, there are events. If you’re a young woman, young non-binary person, come and join with us at STEMettes. Don’t do it on your own.
Often it can feel quite lonely, often it can feel intimidating. But it can also be amazing. It can be really great. It can feel really jubilating and it’s nicer to be able to share those experiences, and celebrate those wins with others. It’s incredibly collaborative and the sooner that you are in the habit of doing that, the better it’s going to be for your career.”
In 2022, Anne-Marie released her new book She’s in CTRL a guidebook for women to take back tech.
Look out for ITN Business’ ‘STEM: Access for All’ programme, launching for National STEM Day, on November 8th.