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University chancellor says she is an ‘accidental trailblazer’ for women in Stem

The new chancellor of a Scottish university, who describes herself as an “accidental trailblazer”, has said she will fulfil the role for the common good.

Anne-Marie Imafidon has spent her career helping young women break into the largely male-dominated science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

Recognised around the world for founding Stemettes, a social enterprise which encourages girls and young women to enter the field, Dr Imafidon will be officially installed as chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) on July 2.

She will be replacing singer and campaigner Annie Lennox, the university’s previous chancellor.

Anne-Marie Imafidon pictured outside the university building
Anne-Marie Imafidon is the new chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University (Peter Devlin/GCU/PA)

As Scotland’s largest modern university, GCU promotes women’s participation in Stem through its outreach programmes, mentoring, and by offering scholarships for women in engineering, and has also received awards for its commitment to gender equality.

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Originally from London, Dr Imafidon, 33, has worked on a wide range of Stem projects, including writing books on the industry, hosting podcasts and appearing on television shows, and Stemettes has reached around 60,000 young women.

Ahead of her installation as chancellor, she said she is “really excited” to be working with GCU, and that she plans to be a “chancellor for the common good” – a key value held by the university.

She said: “I actually set up quite a number of different businesses before I started Stemettes as an organisation and ran a networking events company at one point with my friends.”

It was her early experiences of various forms of discrimination that led her to help make Stem industries a more accepting space for women.

She said: “There are lots of things that were different about me that never really seemed to crop up in conversations or as we were building databases or whatever else.

“It’s always been an interesting one to kind of reflect on being in that minority and something that, at times, is also a shrinking minority in technical spaces.

“Stem has always been something I’ve enjoyed doing,  as a hobby as well as a career, and it’s only as I’ve got older and been more perceptive.

“It’s interesting to reflect on being in that minority and something that, at times, is also a shrinking minority in technical spaces.

GCU New Chancellor
Dr Imafidon met with GCU students earlier this year (Peter Devlin/GCU/PA)

“I’ve looked up and looked around in those rooms and noticed there’s something off about me being one of the only women in this space. I’ve ended up being an accidental trailblazer, recognising there’s a problem and wanting to do something about it. I’ve been driven and motivated, and also fortunate, to have an impact on changing the situation.

“Starting Stemettes was a response to me noticing that I was one of very few women in the room. There’s a knock-on impact not just for individuals stepping into male-dominated tech spaces, but also for the economy at large.

“I started Stemettes with the realisation that, if I ever have children, I don’t want them to reflect on the fact that their mum is one of the only ones left in a space that’s driving so much of what’s going on in the world.

“If I have any girls, I don’t want them to feel like this is not something they should be a part of. The innovation we have now is hindered by not having women and girls at least around the table.

“We’re building a lot of technology that’s ending up harming not only women and girls, but all of society, creating more problems than it’s solving with each technological advance.”

She added: “I actually set up quite a number of different businesses before I started Stemettes as an organisation.

“I ran a networking events company at one point with my friends, and my best friend and I, for a very, very short period, ran a dating company as well.

“At GCU we have a big focus on entrepreneurship as well and the opportunities that that creates for folks when they embark on that journey.

Anne-Marie Imafidon pictured with student Cara Nicole Edgar in a workshop at GCU
Dr Imafidon with Cara Nicole Edgar, a four year student in computer-aided mechanical engineering at the university (Peter Devlin/GCU/PA)

“Starting Stemettes was actually a response to me noticing that I was one of very few in the room, but also that there’s a knock-on impact not just for individuals that would be stepping into male-dominated tech spaces, but also the economy at large.

“I started Stemettes in that realisation that while I don’t have children, if I do I don’t want them to reflect on the fact that their mum is one of the only ones left in a space that’s driving so much of what’s going on in the world.

“If I have any girls I don’t want them to feel like this is not something they should be a part of, and also any of the innovation that we have now by not having women and girls at least around that table.

“We’re building a lot of technology that’s ending up harming not only women and girls, but all of society and is creating more problems that it’s solving with each technological advance.”

Dr Imafidon will be installed as GCU chancellor at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow on Tuesday, as part of three days of graduations ceremonies for the university’s students.