Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE chats with Melan Magazine about her new book, She’s In CTRL and why it’s vital that women embrace tech in our day to day lives.
British tech guru and Countdown presenter Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon released her book She’s In CTRL during the summer. The book is a powerful manifesto about how women can take back control in the tech space and offers insights into why women are so under-represented in tech, why it matters, and what we can do about it.
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon has worn the ‘genius’ label for a long time. From passing two GCSEs in primary school to being the youngest woman ever to pass A-level computing at age 11, the British-Nigerian computer scientist is keen to share her knowledge with others and encourage the talents of other women who are passionate about STEM subjects.
“A practical guide for women who think that technology is not for them”
This passion led Dr Anne-Marie to become the CEO of the social enterprise Stemettes, which focuses on helping the next generation of women and non-binary people develop their talents in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) subjects.
Read on to learn more about Dr Imafidon’s book She’s In CTRL and what she gets up to outside of being a genius.
Why did Anne-Marie Imafidon write She’s In CTRL?
With Stemettes focusing on those under 25 years old, Imafidon wrote She’s In CTRL for those who are 25+ and interested in STEM. She shares: “The other bigger reason why I wrote it is… when we think about life now… technology is one of those things that’s not going away.”
She adds: “It’s really important to life as we know it. The way that things work and the way that everything operates. So, us being at this point where women aren’t part of that conversation… is meaning that we are losing out as a gender.”
She continues: “What happens next as a result of the technology today? Who’s building it? “It is opportunity for us to take back some form of control.”
Imafidon says that She’s In CTRL is: “A practical guide for women who think that technology is not for them. It’s taking their hand to begin their journey.”
Traditionally, STEM subjects are often seen as masculine. But Imafidon says there is actually: “A rich technical herstory that is obscured.” This meant that growing up, Anne-Marie did not have any female inspirations in the field of tech. Instead, she found inspiration from the British physicist who developed the web, Tim Berners-Lee.
Dr Anne-Marie goes on to explain that because of the lack of representation of women in this field, those that do step out often feel like they are: “going against nature.” She says that this is why there is a lack of women in tech. “[The reasons] all boil down to the idea that we can’t imagine what it is to be a technical woman. We can’t imagine what it looks like when she’s in control and so we act accordingly.”
“People always talk about Twiggy and miniskirts. … that wasn’t the only thing that happened in the 60s.”
Though it took her a while, Imafidon eventually discovered the stories of some women in tech. Name-dropping some of these women, the now 32-year-old relayed a list of technical women which included Gladys West, with the GPS, Hedy Lamarr with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Stephanie Kwolek with the bulletproof vest and Martha Lane Fox from LastMinute.com.
On a touching note, Imafidon shares that she calls African American Gladys Mae West, known for her contributions to the mathematical modeling of the shape of the Earth, as ‘Aunty Gladys West.’ She said: “There are so many women who have gone ahead that have done incredible technical things that have touched so much of our lives. When I was younger, I didn’t know about any of them.”
Imafidon says that in the 60s: “People always talk about Twiggy and miniskirts. And it’s like, that wasn’t the only thing that happened in the 60s.” Explaining further she says: “There were women across the country who were working from home, writing the code for things like the black box for Concorde… they were working like bus and train timetables, and they were doing this from home. At a time when they couldn’t have even opened their own bank accounts or bought their own houses without the permission of their husbands or their fathers.”
Why should we embrace tech?
Sharing why people should embrace tech, Imafidon says that in this ever-changing world of tech: “There’s an upside if you do learn it and a downside if you don’t. I think the way to do it is to take it bit by bit. I kinda talk about this in the book. Every chapter has a getting started section at the end but like all of it is just step by step.”
What advice would Imafidon give to a parent whose child is interested in STEM?
Anne-Marie shares that Stemettes have a children’s newsletter that comes out every month. “I say that’s a really good place to start for learning and being able to talk it through with your kids.” She says that some parents and children discuss it around the dinner table… or the walk to school.
As well as learning alongside your children you should also try to find: “The right kind of resources, events, and opportunities for them to explore these things and connect to the industry in ways you may not be able to do.” She also clarified that although Stemmetes is focused on girls and non-binary people: “brothers can come too.”
“brothers can come too.”
What does Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon get up to outside of tech?
“I watch a huge amount of TV”, Imafidon admits. “Insecure is pretty good, Taskmaster US… Abbott Elementary actually is pretty epic.” With Christmas around the corner, the Oxford University graduate shares what she is most looking forward to: “I like eating. I like cooking… And I like sleeping.”
Any advice for those wanting to set up a social enterprise?
For aspiring social enterprises, Imafidon says: “Timebox your research. Give yourself three months, six months and then do something. Get going, get started.”
Written by Maxine Harrison