Inspirational Woman: Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE | Founder, Stemettes; Speaker; Presenter & Author, She's In CTRL

Meet Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Founder, Stemettes; Speaker; Presenter & Author, She's In CTRL

Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon is a keynote speaker, presenter, and co-founder of the award-winning social enterprise, Stemettes. Voted the most influential woman in tech in the UK of 2020 by Computer Weekly and featured among the top 10 BAME leaders in tech by The Financial Times.

A recognised and respected thought-leader in the tech space and trustee at the Institute for the Future of Work, Anne-Marie has spoken across the globe for some of the world’s biggest digital companies and conferences, including Facebook, Amazon, Google, Mercedes Benz, Fujitsu and Mastercard.

Anne-Marie is the temporary Arithmetician on Countdown, the world’s longest running gameshow. She also hosts the highly popular Women Tech Charge podcast for the Evening Standard, and is a sought-after presenter and conference facilitator, conducting live interviews with famous faces from the tech world and beyond, including Jack Dorsey and Sir Lewis Hamilton. Her first book She’s In CTRL is to be published by Transworld in September 2022

Anne-Marie has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from the Open University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Kent University, Bristol University and Coventry University, and in June of 2017 was made an Honorary Fellow at Keble College, Oxford. She sits on the Board of Durham University’s Computer Science Department, which, in recognition of her work as Head Stemette, offers a scholarship to young women in her name. In 2019 she became a visiting professor for Sunderland University. She is on the board of the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Music and Sport’s Digital Skills Partnership, the British Library Advisory Council, the Research England Council and is a trustee at the Urban Development Music Foundation and the Women of the World Foundation.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I grew up in East London, where I was the eldest of five. I was a child prodigy and always really loved maths and technology.

After studying at Oxford, I went to work in The City and was invited to speak at the largest women in tech conference in the world, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

There were thousands of women there, and I reliased my experience of maths and technology hadn’t just been strange because I’d had it so early, it was strange because I’d been a girl. I set about trying to change that with Stemettes.

Our latest project, the Stemettes Society, is a closed social network for girls, young women and non-binary people under the age of 25 who are interested in STEM.

We want to help them become role models and changemakers who can support eachother.
That could be with advice on making decisions about their GCSE or A-levels, or just having girls at University saying, ‘Hey, ask me anything’.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

For me, it goes in cycles. I’m constantly changing where I think I’m going to end up. I think it has to be like that because technology is constantly changing.

At first I wanted to be a management consultant, then I wanted to work in a bank. Now I honestly don’t know (I’ve got aspirations around broadcasting).

I’m constantly trying to evaluate what I’m best placed to do and what fits my idea of success, which has always been to wake up in the morning and do what I want.

I’d advise having a ‘Plan A’, so you know what direction you’re heading, but also to be open to new information so you can update it and build a new ‘Plan B’.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

My biggest challenge remains the same: having to work with people.

Anything that involves human beings has always been a challenge for me—I’m used to maths algorithms that just work, even when they are difficult.

I’m constantly learning how to manage, how to hire, how to deal with partners. At Stemettes we’re now adding a charity side, so figuring out how to work with donors will be another massively different kind of relationship.

People are messy. You have to understand that you can’t see everything, what’s happening internally. You have to learn how to be okay with uncertainty. But you can always learn from talking to people.

I’ve learned to never assume who a person is or how they will be. You have to expect the unexpected without any kind of prejudgement.

Join Anne-Marie at our Level Up Summit on 06 December!

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Founder, Stemettes & Author of She’s In CTRL, is just one of our amazing speakers at our upcoming summit on 06 December. Anne-Marie will sharing stories from her book, including how she founded the amazing tech organisation Stemettes, why she believes women need to take back tech, the importance of role models and her top tips for for a successful technology career, and much more.

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What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I usually say Outbox, our tech incubator for teenage girls, but really it has to be all the programs we run at Stemettes because of the impact they have in changing perceptions.

We’re giving girls an opportunity to grow up with a different social norm and giving them a shared experience of what a majority female industry looks like.

That will stay with them forever. It’s a shared bond.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?  

Ultimately, I’m a problem solver.

I can focus and see a problem as something clearly defined. That means that other people can support and help without too much work or convincing.

When I was a child prodigy I was solving maths problems rather than societal problems but it’s possible it’s the same thing, just more complex.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology? 

Always find your tribe. You don’t have to do it alone.

In the press and media, it’s always Mark Zuckerberg or some other figurehead they bang on about. You don’t see that they have a team, advisors and mentors behind them.

Alexander Bell didn’t invent the telephone on his own.

Your people could be alongside you or ahead of you, and you should work hard to help those behind you because it’s an investment. It pays back multiple times over.

How important is it to see female tech role models in the media?

It’s incredibly important. If you see someone like Yewande Biala (a smart biochemist who went to university early) on Love Island, that helps to normalise women in STEM.

It’s crazy that scientists still just exist just on The Big Bang Theory or The IT Crowd as some kind of sectioned-off programme, never just eating or cooking or kissing someone.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes there are barriers, but if something is worth doing, you will always face barriers.

There’s a sense of purpose for any woman in the industry at the moment, whether you like it or not. Technology is going in a certain direction—and like colonies of ants or bees—we all have a part to play in pulling it back to where it needs to.

That means taking on counterproductive work policies, and the people hiding biases within your workplace who will get in your way.

We have to face those things and change them with our own power and influence through communication and collaboration. It’s a hard fight, but it’s the good fight. And if you hit a wall, you need to make a door.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Be willing to listen. There’s a distinct lack of listening right now.

If a company genuinely wants to change, there will be people facing bias in that organization who are crying out for change. Those people are leaving exit interviews, they are raising issues with affinity networks, they are speaking out loud.

Organisations have to make sure they are listening otherwise they can’t know what action to take.

There is currently on 15% of women working in tech if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry? 

Compulsory shared parental leave.

If someone is part of the making of a baby and they have to stay away from work, there’s a lot of intangible things they will learn. When they come back to the organization, they’re a fresh set of eyes and are able to see the holes they couldn’t before.

If you don’t have an understanding of what it’s like to be at home, you end up making backwards policies that say certain things must happen in the office at certain times. So if you don’t understand about external responsibilities you can’t bring about long-lasting change.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc? 

The second season of my podcast Women Tech Charge is actually coming up in October, so you should tune in to that.

In terms of books, I’d recommend Inferior by Angela Saini  (it’s all about how science has got women wrong). And there’s my kid’s book called How to be a Math Whiz which is due out later in the year.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

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