Cutting to the chase, what was it that drew you into technology in the first place?
I was fascinated by technology as a child. Pulling things apart and putting them back together again became a habit that stuck. I also enjoyed being able to solve problems, be creative and help others with technology.
Including passing your A-levels at only 11 years old, you have a significant number of achievements under your belt! Which achievements have proved to be the most significant to you and your journey?
Every new achievement has been a surprise. A little more than a year ago if you had told me I’d be running the Stemettes I would have laughed. But Stemettes is growing faster than anyone could have imagined, and each time something good happens, no one is more surprised than I am. Stemettes is most significant to me because it addresses an issue that is incredibly important and has a huge impact on life as we know it. I love technology and I want to see the STEM industry be as inclusive and innovative as it can be: without the full representation of women, this is not possible.
Tell me a bit about your experiences as a woman within technology and the journey which led you to form the “Stemettes”.
I attended the Grace Hopper event in Baltimore in 2012 on behalf of the company I work for. It’s an annual conference in the States for women in technology, especially those studying it at university. The problem that women are severely underrepresented in the STEM workforce was highlighted and I was shocked to hear that this number is in freefall within technology. I looked back and realised that at university, I was one of three girls in a class of 70 on my Mathematics and Computer Science course. After spending a couple of months thoroughly researching what was available, I set about organising the first events, and launched Stemettes in February 2013.
So, in brief, what do the “Stemettes” do?
The Stemettes project is all about introducing girls and young women to role models already in the STEM workforce through a range of events in order to help them make well-informed career decisions. The aim is to break down incorrect perceptions of stereotypes associated with women in STEM, and to clearly demonstrate to girls that they can not only succeed in but also enjoy using STEM in work. The events are therefore centred on applicable STEM skills, and whenever possible in the work environment of the multitude of STEM women who support the Stemettes. In this way girls can hopefully picture the world in which they might work, and see it as accessible.
Seems the tech industry is finally beginning to recognise the need to support women in technology, especially focusing on “fuelling the pipeline”. Do you feel that education and academic resources are also following suit?
The interest schools have shown in Stemettes’ events would suggest so. Teachers certainly recognise the absence of women from these subjects and, importantly, are looking to do something about it. The changes to the Computer Science curriculum also aim to make up-to-date and relevant skills available to young people – skills which otherwise girls might be more unlikely to seek out. But to be honest, it’s not enough. While the need to strengthen the human capital investment in STEM is being generally recognised, not enough is being done to raise the representation of women even at school and university level.
Above and beyond driving awareness for the need for women in STEM what events and projects do “Stemettes” have in store for 2014/2015?
The aim is to make Stemettes a national enterprise this year: to do one event outside of London for each we do within. As part of the project, we’re also launching a mentoring scheme directed towards university-age students. All these things are extensions of the same mission.
What advice would you give to younger women who are debating a role in STEM sectors? Can they and/or parents & guardians reach out directly to Stemettes for advice?
Absolutely! The supporters of little Stemettes are crucial to their decisions, and we welcome parents and guardians to observe and take part in our events. My advice would be to seek out as much information as possible, and to speak to women in STEM careers. This is so important in deciding which of the many careers are out there and which of your skills they are looking for (and need!)
Can you share any “words of wisdom” you have received from talented women (and men) along the way?
The biggest one that always comes up at events is to do what you enjoy, and figure everything out as you go. In pursuing your interests, meeting people and especially Big Stemettes you’ll be able to build up a better picture of what is out there and what you want to do. I’m still learning now, and have no idea what I want to do when I grow up!
If you’re interested in hearing more from Anne-Marie and she will be speaking on our Women in Technology Panel as part of London Technology Week on Wednesday, 18th June 2014, Keynote Theatre, Internet World Exhibition, Excel Centre, 11:45am-12:45pm.
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