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How Anne-Marie Imafidon is inspiring a new generation of women into STEM

Lara O'Reilly
Executive Producer

It didn’t take long for a young Anne-Marie Imafidon to showcase her huge potential.

Imafidon passed two GCSEs (exams that students usually take in the UK at the age of 16) while still attending primary school. She went on to become the youngest girl ever to pass A-level computing at just 11 (A-Levels in the UK tend to be taken between the ages of 16 and 18.)

The theme continued beyond her teens. At the age of 20, Imafidon became one of the youngest people to earn a masters degree in mathematics and computer science from Oxford University.

“I was a nightmare to teach,” Imafidon told Yahoo Finance UK’s Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded show.

An early driver of Imafidon’s academic overachievement in maths and technology was her desire to blend creativity with logic, something she said still inspires her today.

Free, fun and food

Imafidon took internships and positions at companies including Deutsche Bank, Hewlett-Packard and Goldman Sachs, but in 2013 she founded STEMettes as a “New Year’s resolution” side project. It soon snowballed from a hobby to a full-time endeavour.

“We launched in February of 2013 and then by December of 2013, we were at Number 10 [Downing Street] sharing what we had done and the learnings that we’d had,” Imafidon said.

Fewer than 22% of the people working in core science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) occupations in the UK last year were women, according to a study from WISE, which campaigns for gender equality in STEM.

STEMettes aims to inspire young females to take up STEM careers, through events, mentoring, hackathons and exhibitions.

“It’s always free for the girls to attend, it’s always fun — we put that at the centre of what it is, whether it’s Ariana Grande or whoever it is blasting and bumping — and there’s always food, because everybody loves free food,” Imafidon said.

Meghan Markle attends a STEMettes event in 2018. Photo: Sam and Simon Photography

From humble beginnings, some 40,000 people across Europe have now been involved in a STEMette event. Imafidon was awarded an MBE for services to young women and STEM sectors in the 2017 Queen’s New Years Honours List.

Imafidon says spending time with the STEMette girls keeps her grounded and gives her “hope” amid some of the recent negative headlines surrounding technology.

“It gives me hope, sitting with the girls, to keep it real, and be like, actually: I don’t need to be parroting the same things that other people are doing, that institutions are doing,” Imafidon said.

“It’s my duty to lay the path, set the way for these girls and be that change agent and be that person that comes and pokes holes in what’s happening and is a bit different — it’s almost my superpower,” she said. “It’s my benefit, it’s my privilege to come from a different perspective and be able to put that into those situations.”

Watch the full Anne-Marie Imafidon Global Change Agents interview for:

  • How STEMettes helps young women solve problems using tech

  • STEMettes’ most inspirational success stories

  • What’s next for STEMettes

  • The companies leading the charge on getting women into STEM

  • Imafidon on what it was like appearing in rapper Dave’s music video

  • Imafidon on receiving her MBE and meeting her idols

  • Imafidon on Brexit and the differences between London and Silicon Valley

Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded explores the stories of some of the most inspirational women across business, tech, and academia. Catch up on all the latest episodes here.