Anne-Marie Imafidon is the founder and CEO of Stemettes, an enterprise which encourages girls to pursue a career in Science, Technology, engineering and maths. A child prodigy, she received a scholarship to John Hopkins University at thirteen, then went on to get her master’s from the University of Oxford at only nineteen. This makes her the youngest ever graduate with a master’s degree. She recently came to make a talk at Kent, and we had the opportunity to ask her a few questions.

What inspired you to get into sciences and maths as a girl? And why do you think some girls hesitate when entering these fields?

“For me, what inspired me was maths, computer science, and technology, I guess I still don’t like chemistry, or biology, to be honest. For maths, there’s always a right answer and it’s logical; so the person that discovered that two plus two is four is long dead and gone. We’re all here today and when you’re born, two plus two is still going to be four. I like learning new stuff and understanding how things work. When you understand one thing, you can understand another, like a line of code. You can put things together to make something quite cool. And I’m quite creative, not with words or painting, but with making things.”

How have you found working as a woman in a male dominated industry?

“I loved it, I still love it. I think for me, it took me a while to notice I was the only girl in a lot of those meetings, more because maybe I’m not the most perceptive person (she laughs). So when the room is all guys, I don’t see me in that room, I just see the guys. So it was really a thing where I was like ‘oh, there’s one person that’s the odd one out here, I can’t quite tell who.’ It was kind of just how those meetings normally looked like, so I was just gonna get on with it. And no one made me feel like I was any different, at university, or work. So it wasn’t until I was at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing that I noticed. The first year I went, there were about 3,500 women. This year there were about 18,000. I was there with 3,500 women who were all like me, and I was like ‘oh, that’s different from what I normally see.’ So it’s never really bothered me. I was just like ‘tech is cool’. I enjoyed it.

We’ve noticed that you’re very active on Twitter. Do you think social media is the right platform to make a difference and if so, how do you use it?

I like Twitter because up until recently is was 140 characters, and I don’t like reading. It’s great because people have to say things really quickly, and if you do a thread of like 52 tweets, you’re kind of missing the point. In terms of using it, it allows you to connect people in a way that Facebook doesn’t; based on ideas rather than personal relationships. In terms of whether it’s the right platform, everyone’s different. It’s like asking is brie the right cheese for you? If you’re dairy free, there are also cheeses for you! (she laughs) With social media it’s the same thing; there are loads of different platforms available, and as long as you’re comfortable doing what you’re doing, then that’s the joy of it all, really.

You recently received your MBE in 2017, congratulations! How was that experience?

It was kind of cool, actually! It was a bit of a surprise. It’s all very secretive, they told me in October, or November of 2016. It was really strange; the Queen signs a letter and you get to go to the Palace. It was just surreal!

What do you think the future is for women in the STEM industries? Is it becoming more accessible to them?

Yes, I think it is getting better… slowly. It’s moving in the right direction, I think now more than ever. It’s really important that women are in the room when we’re developing the technology of the future, because often, theirs’ is the voice of reason in that room (she laughs). Or it’s at a different perspective, at least. I think the ‘women in tech’ conversation is a lot louder now than it was even just five years ago when I started STEMettes. It’s getting better and becoming more mainstream as well, which is the most heartening part. It used to be that women stayed together on the side, and no one really knew they were there. And now women are profiled in RED Magazine, and in prominent newspapers. We call it gen-pop, in the team, or general population – which means you’re no longer a niche.

How can young women get involved in STEMettes?

Find us on social media and come along. It’s free, and there’s always food!