It’s a sad fact that even in 2017, many industries are still suffering from a gender disparity in the workforce.
The latest figures show that the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (known as STEM) industries are still dominated by men. According to a report from Fortune, women only hold 23% of STEM roles worldwide, but thanks to organisations like the Stemettes the opportunities for women in these fields are steadily increasing.
8 March is International Women’s Day and the theme for 2017 is Be Bold For Change. The Stemettes are an excellent example of women supporting each other to be bold and work towards change together.
We spoke to Stemmettes co-founder, head Stemette and MBE, Anne-Marie Imafidon about what inspired her to start the movement and what gives her hope for the future.
‘Stemettes is an award-winning social enterprise working across the UK & Ireland to inspire, encourage and support girls and young women into Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) related careers,’ Anne-Marie tells Metro.co.uk.
‘All of what we do is free, fun and involves lots of food, as well as fab women from the industry. I used to work in technology at an investment bank, saw a problem with the proportion of women in STEM (currently 21%, it was 13% then) and ended up starting Stemettes. 3 years in, I went full-time on Stemettes.’
Anne-Marie explains that the main issues around getting women into STEM are reflected in the lack of role models available to them.
‘The subtle discouragement comes in the form of not having any visible role models: in real life, on TV or in Film.
‘There are many women in the industry (and have been many in history), but we’ve done a bad job of telling their stories or sharing their experiences. We really need to see a female technical character in Eastenders, more films like Hidden Figures and more events like the ones Stemettes run.’
In 2015 the Stemettes ran the Outbox Incubator project which was transformed into the documentary ‘Eat. Sleep. STEM. Repeat.’
‘We took over a massive house in South London for 6 weeks and had 45 young women at a time, living under one roof, eating together and learning about running their own STEM startups from industry leaders,’ Anne-Marie tells us.
‘It was like having all the X-Men under one roof. It was a lot of fun, and 29 startups were launched by these young women aged 11 up to 22. They have gone on to do great things: TED talks, run businesses, win awards…I was so proud! ‘
Right now, Anne-Marie is working really hard to make sure that Stemettes won’t be around in 10 years.
‘We’re already seeing the girls from the programme forming their own networks and inspiring others to join the industry. We’d love to see “Stemette” become a part of the norm – seeing technical women everywhere and having it become a very normal thing to see them in the media.’
Is there a powerful woman Anne-Marie admires most? You betcha ya.
‘The woman I admire is Dame Stephanie Shirley, who brought a lot of change in the 1960’s whilst running a software company of women, based at their kitchen tables around the country.
‘They coded things like the voice receiver for the black box on Concorde and stock control software. When she had to sell the company due to the Equal Opportunities Act, all of the women became millionaires.’
What would Anne-Marie recommend to help get young women more involved in STEM?
‘The STEM field is an incredible one of creativity and helping others by solving problems,’ she tell us.
‘Doing well takes lots of research and a willingness to always be learning. There are lots of meetups and organisations that run events to help ease you into things and explore options.
‘I also live by the mantra “Seek forgiveness, Not permission” – don’t ask too many people for permission to do new things. It’s very easy to be told “No”, but there’s no reason why you can’t be the first to do something – whether it’s creating a new product, running a company or switching industry into a more technical role at a company.’
Find out more about the Stemettes and the work they are doing for International Women’s day here.