Posted on August 4, 2014
0 people commented on this
Our latest STEM story comes from a very unique woman. We talked to Anne-Marie Imafidon, Head Stemette of the organisation Stemettes. A former child prodigy, Anne-Marie is passionate about all things tech – and has grown into a talented, hard working woman who is tirelessly dedicated to supporting girls in science, technology, engineering, and maths. We managed to grab some time with this busy lady in a (VERY noisy) coffee shop to ask her all about STEM, taking risks, inspiring young girls and what she sees in the mirror.
What first interested you to pursue a STEM career?
For me it was all about creativity and problem solving. About my love for technology, and that it’s something I could be paid to do. To sit all day and be creative, solve problems, explore my own world and the things that I’ve created – for me, that is what got me first interested.
Why did you set up Stemettes?
I set up Stemettes 16 months ago after I attended a conference to speak about my work on social media for companies and employees. At this conference, the keynote speaker talked about the fact that we have fewer and fewer women in STEM, and that numbers have been on the decline for 30 years. So I was quite shocked - as someone that since the age of 4 has been interested in taking things apart and putting them back together. The fact that now we have mobile phones and Facebook means there’s technology everywhere, so I couldn’t believe that there weren’t more girls and women getting involved in shaping these technologies and developing these products. When I got back to the UK, I did some reading and saw that the options available to girls were very limited, and that maybe I myself as a girl might not have gone to any of them. So I set up Stemettes as a safe space for girls to come and explore STEM.
What is the biggest challenge to get girls interested in STEM?
I think girls are interested in STEM to start off with, but somehow it gets knocked out of them – it gets less desirable and less common to see. And so for girls who will be the only ones in the class, there’s this feeling of ‘am I going to be the pioneer?’ or ‘am I going to be on the sidelines?’ – and that means that she doesn’t have anyone else on her level to chat to and who understands whatever is going through her mind as a girl. This drives girls to make certain decisions that will maybe limit the options that they have later in terms of going into STEM.
I think that’s one of the biggest barriers – understanding the fact that the choices that you make when you’re younger in terms of maths or sciences will impact the careers that you’re hoping to do, and even the way that you think and approach things.
We definitely have to do a lot in terms of raising girls’ understanding of what is available to them, but also of what other girls like them are doing. That they’ve grown into women who have worked on the Shard, women who know about tech, women who are discovering new elements and working on things like the Large Hadron Collider. But also women who are fashion technology designers. Women do all kinds of jobs – and it comes from that core of understanding sciences. So I think that’s what we need to do.
If you could meet one female scientist, dead or alive, who would it be?
There are two that I would love to meet. One would be Ada Lovelace, for obvious reasons. She was the first – so it would be cool to sit down and just see her work. I think that would be incredible – given what we know about computers today, and as she was one of the first computer programmers, it would be fantastic to be there as a fly on the wall watching her tinkering away!
The other woman would be Grace Hopper. She was a computer scientist in the Navy, and it would be great to meet her and just see what she was like. Because I think sometimes we just remember people’s achievements – but we forget that they were people too! So it would be cool to just have a coffee with her, see what she’s like, see what she finds funny!
Thanks to Anne-Marie for taking some time out to offer us some advice. You can find out more about Stemettes on their website or social media.