Q&A with OPITO Global 2022 Speaker, Dr Anne Marie Imafidon MBE

Dr Anne Marie Imafidon MBE, founder of award-winning enterprise, Stemettes, will speak at the OPITO Global Conference 2022.

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon has always been interested in business, maths and technology. A child prodigy who passed maths and ICT GCSEs aged 10, she holds the current world record for the youngest girl ever to pass A-level computing aged 11, and is one of the youngest people ever to be awarded a Masters Degree by University of Oxford aged 20.

“I have always been curious, trying to figure out why things work in the way they do – whether it was trying to take things apart at home or trying to figure out how the washing machine worked,” she said.

Speaking of what inspired her, Anne-Marie added: “Maths was incredibly logical where there are a lot of things in life that aren’t. For me, it was a safe, reliable space – life is more complicated than maths. I thought I can learn this, and understand that, and build on it and things just made sense.

“The other part was the creativity of it all – it is about inventing things, the way we make new things by creating a new database, for example. In the energy industry, you are creating processes and equipment that will allow you to extract energy and use that to solve global problems. That was how my journey into STEM started.”

Inspired by her desire to change the narrative she founded Stemettes - a social enterprise that inspires, supports and encourages girls and young women into the STEM sector through workshops, hackathons and start-up incubator sessions.

At the core of Stemettes is a determination to challenge social norms, including that pervasive narrative that STEM disciplines should somehow ‘belong’ to boys and men.

Anne-Marie and her team are on a mission to ensure that the next generation of young women see the opportunities in technology, and the relevance of it to their lives, while having the confidence to succeed.

“STEM is a term that is more popularised now schools are using the terminology, but what isn’t getting across is the curiosity of STEM and what options are available.

“You can mix biology with art or you can mix tech with history – STEM doesn’t narrow things, it opens things up. That is what is missing at the moment – the awareness of the options.

“There are different forms of success and ways we can be successful in STEM. You have to be able to know what the options are and be able to see yourself in that, as something you can do to gain employment and enjoy. There is no reason you cannot be part of success in that space.”

Anne-Marie said there is still a lot more investment that needs to go into the tech industry, and a lot that still needs to be changed with regards to reward and remuneration, leadership choices, and policies including childcare and the way we approach internships.

She added: “It is a multifaceted problem so we need to take a multifaceted approach which reviews progress month on month, year on year and reflect on what has been done and how we can change. All the science points to the fact that we need to seek change and not enough has been done – we need action.

“Stemettes will be 10 next year, we are quite a big team but we are a minority – there is a lot more investment that needs to go into the STEM space. We value all entry routes into the industry but a lot of things still need to change once you get there - whether it’s the stories we’re telling, the way we are treating employees or what we are paying employees.”

Anne-Marie added it was important for young women to see a diverse set of role models across the industry and when asked about being a role model herself, she said she tries to take it in her stride: “I have to be true to myself, I have to do things that are right for me and I don’t see it as pressure – we all have flaws but can still be role models.”

Coming up for their 10 year anniversary, Stemettes are not slowing down any time soon and have so much more that they want to share with the wider community including white papers, policy suggestions, STEM in the Arts, as well as launching a new Stemettes podcast later this year.

Anne-Marie also has a book coming out entitled ‘She’s in Control’ talking about women taking over tech.

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