Today I went to STEMettes HQ and interviewed the Head STEMette herself: Anne-Marie Imafidon. Anne-Marie was the youngest person to ever receive their masters at Oxford University. She also passed her A-levels at the age of eleven! That gives me one year… tick tick..! She helps a lot of girls and young women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries (STEM) and that is why she is a role model to me.
There was a technical mix-up on our way into the STEM interview! Anne-Marie and my mum ended up emailing each other at the same time. We went to her office but she thought we were downstairs and came to get us. We could hear her voice while we were in the super-slow lift going up as she was going down the stairs! I ran back down the stairs to find her and she went into lift, but I was too scared to go back in there (never trust a slow lift…) I ended up getting lost on the stairs on my way back up!
Once the confusion was over, we went into the STEMettes office. It was extremely epic! With all of the STEMettes equipment scattered around, inspirational quotes on the walls and even a table that doubled up as a whiteboard! The STEMette’s had clearly been working very hard. I was instantly in love with the room; now I just need an extra room at home to turn into a copycat office…
After gazing at the STEMettes’ superb office, we started our interview:
What/who inspired you to do things within STEM?
‘I am a very creative person so my way of expressing myself has always been technical.’
What has been your greatest challenge on your journey so far?
‘Working with people I find really tough because you never really know what you are going to get. They’re not like computers, but you still have to work with them and you can’t do everything yourselves.’
If you could describe STEM in three words what would those three words be?
‘Creative, helpful and fun!’
What is the best thing about STEM?
‘The best thing I’d say is that anybody can make something that exists outside of themselves, by just applying existing knowledge. When you think of even dancing or writing, it’s received in a different way, maybe the way your body dances you have to see all of it. Whereas with STEM nobody knows who the person is that built the website, nobody knows the person who put those two elements together and I think that’s pretty cool.’
What was your favourite STEM related subject in school?
‘In school my favourite subject was geography, but outside of school I liked maths and I.C.T.’
What has been your greatest accomplishment so far?
‘I think STEMettes has been my greatest accomplishment so far. We’ve worked with over 40,000 girls and young girls and women and it’s great to get awards from the Queen, getting doctorates, going to cool places and getting flown all around the world, but actually there is nothing like another human being like, “Yeah that happened” and knowing that had only happened because I was saying, “We’re going to do this and you’re going to meet that person.” It’s amazing.’
Why did you decide to make STEMettes?
‘ There‘s a long version of this story and a short version. The short version is: I decided to make STEMettes because I really liked maths and I.C.T and have always been a girl! Some people thought it was strange for me to be a girl and like STEM, so I decided to make STEMettes so that lots of girls and other people could realise that is wasn’t weird for girls to like STEM. I did that because I felt like I was in a good position to make a difference.’
Who is the most inspirational person in STEM in your opinion?
‘There’s lots of people I wouldn’t say just one, but I always find myself talking about a lady called Stephanie Shirley. She’s really cool because, she was a woman in STEM she is still alive now actually she is eighty-five years old now. There making a movie on her now. So you’ll be able to go to the cinemas and watch it and learn lots about her! She came over in the second world war by Kindertransport. Kindertransport was for children who were left home alone during the war and it was unsafe. So what they did was send 10,000 of those children to England to have a better and safer life. So Stephanie is actually a refugee. In the 1960 she ran a tech company which was all women, but that was very long ago so as you can imagine they didn’t have quite complex technology; they would have to write programs on their kitchen table. There were women working from all over the country as a team which was pretty cool. The company did really well, but because of what life was like in the 1960’s she had to say that her name was, ‘Steve’, so that then she could get into meetings with people. But when she arrived at the meetings, the people would say, ‘You’re not Steve!’ and she would say, ‘Yes I am!’ So then they’d pay her and her team to do all of the work. So they worked on things like, ‘Concord’ – which was a really really reallyfast plane – and these women did some of the programming for Concord. It flew all around the world and nobody knew that it was these women at their kitchen tables who had done some of the programming for Concord. And then she ended up being a millionaire and some of her team became millionaires too, and she’s given lots of her money away to charity. She’s a very cool lady, a very inspirational person. I always think “what would Steve do?”’
If you could change one invention from the 21stcentury what would it be and why?
‘I would change social media. I don’t think we should remove it, but I’d change it. It’s one of those things where there are a lot of problems. That’s why you have to be slightly older to use social media. But I’d change it where there is a bit more check on what’s being posted, and also you don’t post things as a human but post the idea and other people post around the idea. I think themselves and attacking other people because attacking the idea is to attacking the person.’
What advice would you give to a young person like me?
‘My advice would be that there is a lot of options for what you can be and what you can do. Lots of people don’t think you have those option. But it’s not their fault because maybe they didn’t have those options. My advice to you would be to always keep your options open. You can be like, ‘Yeah I can be an actress and I can be a coder and a computer scientist and I can be all of them together because I have the option to that’. So my advice would be to never close your options. Even if you don’t like that particular thing still keep your options open’
At the end, I got a selfie with Dr. Anne-Marie Immafidon! She also told me about Roberta Lucca who is a computer scientist that makes games and works with young women and girls like me too, so I will definitely try to get an interview with her for you guys. Anne-Marie even tagged her in our selfie! I also got a few STEM-related goodies from Anne-Marie as well (thank you!). So I left the STEMettes HQ without getting lost and knowing about more inspirational women than I came with, and the glee from just having interviewed. Dr.Anne-Marie Imafidon! What a morning.