At the EU Commission’s Innovation Convention in 2014, Anne-Marie Imafidon said, “I do things when I want; I don’t wait for the government, or teachers, or my parents to give me permission. I just do it.” No words better capture the necessary attitude for a female entrepreneur trying to make it in today’s society. With this core philosophy, Imafidon is giving young women the advantage that she didn’t have.
Born in 1990, Anne-Marie Imafidon led the way for her three younger siblings to make headlines. The Imafidon family have broken boundaries at a young age, earning the name “The world’s smartest family” by Sky News and BBC.
More than 30 years ago, Imafidon’s father, Chris, emigrated to London from Edo State, Nigeria, finding work as an eye doctor, not yet knowing he would raise a prodigious family. He might have had a glimpse into the future when his eldest daughter, Anne-Marie, learned to speak six different languages by the age of 10.
She received academic qualification awards for Mathematics and Information Technology while in primary school in England. Imafidon accomplished this by the age of 11, when most young girls are busy making bracelet looms or talking on their phones. Not only did she break boundaries of age, gender and race, but she served as an inspiration for her three younger siblings, who were also child prodigies.
This upbringing might have been the catalyst in her decision to create STEMettes which helps young women achieve their full potential through academia. STEMettes is a social enterprise that helps young girls ages 5 to 22 achieve their full potential in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM). Since 2013, nearly 15,000 girls across Europe have visited one of numerous STEMettes events, with discussions on building confidence, app-development and other academic topics.
Through STEMettes, Imafidon began the Outbox Incubator initiative. It’s the subject of an upcoming documentary described as Dragon’s Den meets Big Brother. Preselected girls with STEM-related startups stay at a residence and watch their ideas grow thanks to seed funding, intensive mentorship and support. The initiative brought in 45 girls every week for over a six-week period during the 2015 summer holidays in London.
Imafidon holds a large list of accomplishments for somebody still in her twenties. A particularly proud and memorable moment for the England native was her visit to Buckingham Palace in 2014, when she met Queen Elizabeth II. She also received the Member of the Order of the British Empire award (MBE) in recognition of her work with STEMettes. At 27 years old, she’s the youngest person to receive the award since 1890.
With her contributions to female youth globally and her efforts to bridge the gender gap, the recognition is much deserved. Yet there’s still much work left to be done. Imafidon says, “Inclusivity in the sector and across society is important for all of us, it’s an honour in itself to do the work we do.”
Alex Correa | Contributing Writer