International Women’s Day 2022: Interview with Stemettes CEO Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE

Since 1911, International Women’s Day has been a focal point to celebrate the contributions of women across all sectors of society and a ‘call to action’ for a meaningful and far-reaching movement towards gender equality.

For us at WIN, it’s an annual opportunity to take stock: to connect with our members, to celebrate the incredible work of organisations across our women’s sector, and to raise our voices with women throughout the UK and beyond to call for a safer, more equitable and inclusive world.

This year, the International Women’s Day campaign calls us to #BreakTheBias. To challenge stereotypes and prejudice wherever we find them. To work for gender equality for all women, regardless of class, creed, sexuality, ethnicity or ability. To root out unconscious bias within ourselves and within our communities, and to challenge any obstacle that prevents women from achieving their potential.

This campaign goes to the heart of our work at WIN. Our mission statement, to promote friendship and embrace difference, informs our work building bonds of solidarity between women that can overcome what divides us, and to challenge bias in all its forms.

Another organisation working to break the biases that hold women and girls back is award-winning social enterprise Stemettes, tackling the underrepresentation of women and non-binary people in STEM careers. The organisation runs multiple inspirational activity and education programmes and mentoring schemes, as well as putting together exciting events and online content that help engage young women and encourage them to see themselves in these fields.

We spoke to their Co-founder and CEO Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE to hear more about Stemettes’ ethos and what #BreakTheBias means to her.

What inspired you to get into this work?

I was a curious child who passed two GCSEs before leaving primary school and at the age of 11, I was the youngest girl ever to pass A-level computing. I went on to receive a Master’s Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Oxford at the age of 20. A few years after I’d been building my career in tech, I became aware of the lack of women and non-binary people in the STEM spaces I inhabited. This really frustrated me. So I decided to do something about it and co-founded the Stemettes. Stemettes is the not-for-profit organisation I created in 2013 to ensure girls, young women, and non-binary young people know that STEM/STEAM fields are exciting and fruitful career options for them.

What role does bias play in the under-representation of women in STEM and how is your work aiming to challenge this?

It has a massive impact. From the judgements on appearance to the assumptions about working mothers, women bear the brunt of bias in the workplace. In 2019 more than half of young women said they would be interested in a career in STEM but 78% were discouraged by gender inequality according to a survey by our certifications partner QA. At Stemettes, our mission is to engage, inform and connect with STEM. Through our events, content and resources, we encourage parents, carers and teachers to continually expose young people to diverse STEM role models. We make it normal for our Stemettes to learn about people working in a variety of roles and from a variety of backgrounds.

What motivates you when you face challenges in diversifying STEM?

I know we can do better as a society to make room for so many more young people from diverse backgrounds with the skills we desperately need. We just need to give them the opportunity and introduce them to networks that will support them on their career journeys in STEM. Stemettes is experienced in providing engaging activities and opportunities for learning in schools, impactful events and inspirational content platforms. We pride ourselves on the intersectional group of thousands we’ve engaged with STEM – a diverse group featuring many who are from underrepresented groups in STEM. We prioritise recipients of Free School Meals, those who are state-school educated, or whose parents did not attend further education or are not employed in STEM.

What message would you want to convey to women and girls this international women’s day?

Find your tribe – learn with others, you are unique, but there are communities of people (like the Stemette Society) who are ready to welcome you in and support you! When you go alone you go fast, but when you go together, you go further!

To find out more about Stemettes and their amazing work you can visit their website or find them on Instagram and Twitter @Stemettes. Our thanks to Stemettes and Dr. Imafidon for contributing to our International Women’s Day campaign.