Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE cuts an accomplished figure. At 32, she is the co-founder of the ten-year-old social initiative the Stemettes, has a highly impressive raft of academic and professional achievements under her belt and has just released her first book She’s In CTRL: How Women Can take Back STEM. And she can now add President of the British Science Association to her list of accolades.

As part of the British Science Festival in 2022, Anne-Marie gave her opening presidential address; a fireside chat with journalist Nitya Rajan. Anne-Marie discussed her inquisitive childhood, the need to create more inclusive spaces in STEM, plans for her presidency, and how she hopes there will be no need for the work the Stemettes does in ten years’ time.

Curiosity is key

Nitya opens with questions about Anne-Marie’s early years with her family, a happy childhood as the eldest of five siblings born to Nigerian parents. There was freedom, she said, to explore and follow her curiosity about how the world works at home.

She reminisced about typing on her dad’s computer “and being really excited to come back the next day and see a little bit of me there in the computer”, and taking apart the family VCR to understand how it knew to show Lion King (“I didn’t see Timon and Pumba go in, how did it know to show Timon and Pumba?”)

Luckily, she said, her parents weren’t too angry about her home experiment on the VCR.

It was that kind of house where, it wasn’t encouraged that we break everything, but actually if there was a real question that you were trying to understand, there was something you were curious about, that was encouraged in quite a big way. So we were really fortunate.

To feel you belong

This thirst for knowledge and unabashed attitude to asking questions served Anne-Marie well when she was working in an office at age 16 as part of the Windsor Fellowship programme.

“I was able to be there and be welcomed into that space and be heard and listened to in that space”, she told Nitya, and this gave her a feeling of belonging when she later joined the corporate world.

As a young Black woman, Anne-Marie may have been the only, but “I have that formative experience that allows me to feel like, even if from the outside it didn’t look like I belonged there, I felt like I belonged there.”

That feeling is not always easy to come by, especially when, by virtue of your sex and/or race, you are in the minority. How, Nitya asked, did Anne-Marie find the confidence and inner sense of belonging?

“I’m not very perceptive”, she said. “Another person would have looked into those meetings and thought she’s the youngest, the Blackest, the female-est in that room, that’s definitely the odd one out. Meanwhile I’m sat there like ‘the tech does this’ and ‘the database did that’ and ‘we worked it out’ and wasn’t that fantastic.”

It’s a weakness she said, that has become a strength as it allows her to get on with things, unperturbed by not looking like the rest of the people in the room.


And get on with things she has; almost ten years ago she co-founded Stemettes, “a non-profit that works to engage and connect young women and young non-binary people with STEM and STEAM*.”

The idea came to her after attending a conference in the USA called the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

I turned up there and it was feeling I’d never had before. Being in a majority female technical space. Oh my god, this is what it’s like being in a technical space that’s mostly women, this is very life affirming this is incredible.

One of the keynote speakers talked about the issue of women in technology, how the numbers are in freefall. When she arrived back in the UK, Anne-Marie reckoned with that fact this not an exclusively an American problem.

Wanting to change things for the next generation she thought, “Let me create what I would have wanted for someone to reach out for me to join, let me create what might be able to impact, what might be able to influence these young people, let me create something that’s modern.”

Given Anne-Marie started Stemettes as something she wished had existed when she was a young girl interested in STEM, does she see herself in the young people who join? Nitya asked.

Yes, she said, but “What’s nice is when they see me in themselves. Because of the journey I had, because of the accelerated learning, I’m always very conscious that there are some people who that won’t resonate with.” (Anne-Marie passed A Level computing aged 11, and received a Master’s Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science aged 20.)

It’s important, she explained, that people don’t feel that that sort of journey is the only one you can take into STEM. The elitism, the idea that you must have gone to a certain school, you must have studied certain subjects to a certain grade, needs to be quashed.

At Stemettes they measure success through the young peoples’ perceptions of STEM and their options within it, and their self-confidence of their abilities. “We definitely see a change in their view of themselves…but also a change and shift in what it is to be a scientist.”

Read Part 2 of Anne-Marie's Presidential Address

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