Geraldine Bedell explores how the Stemettes’ science, technology, engineering and maths-related events help to inspire young women to join the tech industry
Many of the best-paying jobs for girls in the future will be in Stem professions – science, technology, engineering and maths. Yet fewer girls than boys choose Stem subjects – even though those who do could go on to earn up to 30 per cent more than if they only had GCSE-level qualifications.
Maths and computer science-graduate Anne-Marie Imafidon (pictured above) wants that to change. So, in 2013, she founded Stemettes, with the aim of encouraging more girls to consider studying Stem subjects. “The way that science and maths are taught is all about the facts,” says Anne-Marie. “There’s not much emphasis on how incredibly creative Stem subjects can be.”
Stemettes run a range of events, talks, visits and mentoring programmes, with activities for girls aged from five to 21. “Everything we do is built around three things: it’s free, it’s fun and there’s food,” Anne-Marie explains.
At one recent ‘hackathon’ (where girls get together to solve problems using tech, as pictured below), 40 per cent of the girls had never done any coding before, but left with a new understanding and confidence. “For many of them, it’s getting the feeling that this really could be for them and they don’t have to think of Stem subjects as just for boys,” Anne-Marie says.
Anne-Marie already had two GCSEs, in maths and information technology, by the age of 10. She was the youngest girl ever to pass A-level computing, at the age of 11, and had a graduate degree from Oxford at the age of 20. But her argument is that you don’t have to be – and shouldn’t have to be – a child prodigy to be a woman who works in a prestigious Stem-related profession.
During the summer, Stemettes run a residential programme – which Anne-Marie describes as “Big Brother meets Dragons’ Den meets The Apprentice” – for girls to develop ideas for start-ups. One of the ideas, an app that can be used to record harassment in the streets, has been featured in women’s magazine Grazia.
There’s not much emphasis on how incredibly creative Stem subjects can be
Girls aged 15 and over can apply for Stemettes’ intensive mentoring programme, which offers introductions, work experience and help creating a CV. There are also activities for younger girls. The overall aim is to improve awareness, perception, knowledge, confidence and networks.
“Even if girls have been put off Stem subjects at school, it’s not too late to get interested,” Anne-Marie says. “There are many ways into Stem careers – and it really can be fun.”