This mathematician is getting five-year-old girls interested in programming apps.
When it comes to numbers, Anne-Marie Imafidon is a natural. She also holds workshops in which she shows other young women that maths is nothing to be afraid of. This year, she was even honoured by the Queen for her work.
Ms Imafidon, you certainly have a way with numbers ...
Do I ever. I love them. I’m fascinated more than anything by how logical they are. Two times two will always be four. It will never be five. I also enjoy combining numbers and am excited by the fact that everything can be worked out mathematically.
You were one of three women in your class at Oxford. Was that a problem?
Not at all. I never saw it as one, and neither did the lads. We were all treated as individuals. Us girls were never looked down upon.
For me, it’s about showing young girls how to approach scientific challenges with confidence.
But you are nonetheless committed to getting more girls interested in technical professions. How did this come about?
Back when I worked at Deutsche Bank, I was sent to a conference in the United States to hold a talk in front of 3,500 people. All of the women there were talking about the drastically sinking number of women in these technical professions. I noticed this problem back home in the UK as well, and decided to do something about it.
Your initiative is called ‘STEMettes’ and has now become your full-time job - effectively making you an entrepreneur. What is the biggest challenge you face?
For me, it’s about showing young girls how to approach scientific challenges with confidence. They have to understand that they are just as good at maths as boys, and that these skills can open the door to many fantastic professional opportunities. It’s important to me that the girls stick together so that they shed all of their inhibitions.
How do you go about making five-year-olds excited about technology?
I have three golden rules. I call it the F principle: free, food and fun! The workshops are free, there is always something good to eat and, to put it plainly, it’s all about having fun. Besides that, I never give instructions. I’m only there for support. The girls just need the space to bring their own ideas to life. I don’t tell them that they can program an app. They find out themselves, after they’ve just done it. When they’ve succeeded, they’re given the courage to follow their passion. It’s just as important to have good role models – women who have successful careers in technology. We bring them together.
A true role model
A prodigy in the fields of maths, computer science and languages, Anne-Marie Imafidon was born in England in 1990 to Nigerian parents as the first of five kids. She speaks five languages fluently and is one of Oxford University’s youngest graduates, where she received her master’s degree at age 20. Having successfully completed her studies, Anne-Marie then worked for companies such as Deutsche Bank and Lehman Brothers before dedicating herself full-time to her company, ‘STEMettes’. Here, she organises workshops for young girls between the ages of five and 22, encouraging them to pursue technical careers. A few months ago, her work for 'STEMettes' earned her an induction into the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. She is the youngest inductee from the field of natural sciences since 1980.