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STEM pioneer Anne-Marie Imafidon on the 'surreal' moment she received her MBE

Lara O'Reilly
·Executive Producer

STEMettes had not even celebrated its fourth anniversary when its founder Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon was awarded an MBE for services to young women and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sectors in the 2017 New Years Honours List.

Imafidon herself was just 27 when she received the news.

“It was incredibly surreal to get the letter — I think I started shaking,” Imafidon said on the Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded show. “It’s a really unassuming envelope they send it in. They send it a couple of months ahead and you’re not allowed to tell anyone.”

Founded in 2013, the STEMettes initiative is dedicated to getting more women into STEM-related fields. STEMettes says 40,000 people have now been involved with one of its free events and activities, which range from hackathons to mentoring sessions.

The MBE comes with its perks — meeting the Queen and the three letter suffix after her name — but Imafidon said the biggest reward was that is showed a recognition that the work to solve the problem of the lack of women in STEM is important.

“That’s something that often with establishments and institutions, we struggle with,” Imafidon said. “When you’re trying to make a change and rail against things, often institutions don’t want that and they rail against you or they just don’t know how to handle you because it’s so different.”

“Whereas this was almost the ultimate institution saying, ‘Yeah, what you’re doing is great, we’re going to recognise it, we’re going to lend you this support’.”

Imafidon also hopes the honour inspires other women to follow in her footsteps.

“For me the MBE is another step toward making sure that I’m not forgotten,” she said. “It’s not a self-centred thing, but that people need to hear my story so they know that it’s possible ... in [a] culture [where] the archetype of the technical female just doesn’t exist.”

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.