MAKERS UK Cause Spotlight: Anne-Marie Imafidon
Anne-Marie Imafidon is as curious as she is sharp. After being heralded as the youngest woman to ever pass two GCSE examinations — for Mathematics and Information Technology — at age 11, Imafidon went on to graduate from Oxford University, with a master's degree in Computer Science.
Even as a child, the British computing, mathematics, and language prodigy was amicably labeled the ‘Eldest Child in Britain’s Brainiest Family.’ She has always described herself as someone who asks ‘why’ a lot.
Despite Imafidon's incredible success, young women like her remain chronically underrepresented in the technical workforce — in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The problem is societal: young girls are often disincentivized from pursuing opportunities in these industries, forgoing access to exciting, impactful, and rewarding jobs.
In 2013, after amassing a wealth of experience working with Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard, Deutsche Bank, and Lehman Brothers, Imafidon discovered that, as a woman interested in STEM, she was part of a shrinking minority. There was a sizable lack of access and awareness among young women looking to pursue careers in the technical fields.
As a response, Imafidon founded Stemettes, an award-winning social enterprise that inspires the next generation of women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. "It's about allowing girls to see themselves in those environments and see that that’s somewhere they could enjoy themselves and be successful and fulfilled," Imafidon told MAKERS UK.
In the three years since its inception, Stemettes has grown exponentially. Over 7,000 young women from the UK, Ireland, and Europe have attended Stemette events, such as panel sessions and hackathons.
Imafidon's focus is on breaking stereotypes that surround women in the STEM fields. "There are several parts of this multi-faceted problem that we have," she tells the International Business Times. "For girls, there is a whole load of unconscious bias which says 'girls don't do that' — from parents, newspapers, everywhere."
Stemettes programs workshops and events designed to introduce young women to STEM careers, concepts, and role models. The key focus is building a conscious community where these girls can see women doing real work in fields they want to pursue – strengthening their curiosity with confidence.
"For me there's certainly a problem with diversity as a whole," Imafidon tells the Guardian. "I was the only black girl on my course at university. As a woman of colour in tech I think there's an issue with how technology jobs are seen by parts of the community. There's also a lack of awareness of women of color who are working in technology companies and running startups."
Through the course of her efforts, Imafidon has gained global recognition for her and her cause. She has been listed as a "person to watch" by numerous major publications, including the Guardian, which named her one of ten women in 'tech you need to meet.' In 2013, she was the UK IT Industry & British Computer Society's 'Young IT Professional of the Year.'
Imafidon continues to populate her shelf with accolades, pushing for greater diversity in the STEM fields. Stemettes's continued success emphasizes the value of and need for female role models in these industries. By championing innovation through an increased focus on diversity and inclusion, Imafidon has herself become a role model for future generations of young women in STEM.