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14 September 2022

Anne-Marie Imafidon Q&A: “Men have often forgotten that women even exist”

The Stem campaigner on Kenya, story-writing and the creation of GPS.

By New Statesman

Anne-Marie Imafidon was born in London in 1990. Aged 11 she became the youngest girl ever to pass A-level computing. She is the founder of Stemettes, a social initiative that promotes women in science and tech.

What’s your earliest memory?

The chronology of it all is a bit hazy, but one is typing the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” into my dad’s computer, but changing her hood to purple instead of red, so it became the story of “Little Purple Riding Hood”. I expect I was about four.

Who are your heroes?

Growing up, my hero was Tim Berners-Lee. I remember being aware that he was a British physicist who created the web, and I remember thinking, “I’m British too, and I’m interested in similar things – I could make something just as impactful.” Now I think my hero is Gladys West. She’s the mathematician who used data from the Geosat satellite to figure out that by drawing a couple of triangles, you can figure out exactly where you are on Earth. That’s why we have GPS, which is the global positioning system. I like to think of it as the “Gladys positioning system”.

What book last changed your thinking?

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. You have to read it. It made me realise that there have been so many times when men have forgotten that women even exist.

Which political figure do you look up to?

None, really, as awful as that sounds. No politician has ever resonated with me.

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What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

The “herstory” of Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Or The Office one-liners, or Parks and Recreation one-liners, or Abbott Elementary.

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In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

Ten years from now in Watamu, Kenya. There’s 4G+ signal everywhere, it’s cashless so you don’t need to take much with you, the sun is always shining. I get a lot done when I’m in Kenya. In ten years I imagine it’d be even better.

What TV show could you not live without?

I love Love It or List It, home makeover shows and property shows. I watch a lot of television.

Who would paint your portrait?

Someone already has. Her name is Susannah Nathanson. It’s got augmented reality (AR) in it, so if you hold your phone over it, a video plays.

What’s your theme tune?

“The Cure and the Cause” by Fish Go Deep. Every time I go onstage that’s the song that plays.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Seek forgiveness, not permission.

What’s currently bugging you?

Lots of things. Climate change, the proportion of women in Stem… it’s a very long list.

[See also: Tsitsi Dangarembga: “People started pointing fingers at me, saying ‘She’s a Western puppet!’”]

What single thing would make your life better?

The eradication of migraines. I get them seasonally.

When were you happiest?

Every time I wake up.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I’d be a TV commissioner on tech comedy shows. I’m trying to do that now, but TV is such a complicated space. 

Are we all doomed?

We don’t have to be. There’s a lot more we can do to make sure we’re not, and a lot more people we should listen to.

“She’s in Ctrl: How Women Can Take Back Tech” by Anne-Marie Imafidon is published by Bantam Press

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This article appears in the 14 Sep 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Succession