A Final Word on Crashing Ceilings and Breaking Barriers
This series has familiarised the Future Black Female with today’s pioneers. Women whose existence assures us that racial and gender limitations are a social construct and can therefore be broken. These phenomenal women are Dr Wendy Okolo, Fatoumata Ba, Helen Dausan, Michaela DePrince and Lauren Simmons. We look up to them because for a very long time success was not allowed to come in the form of a black woman. This series has allowed us to learn, but also to celebrate our success as a demographic. The following characteristics are consistent throughout their success stories:
· Hard work
· A good work ethic
· The ability to shut all negative voices out.
I believe that we will adopt and share them with other women to increase the number of black women who are doing more than what society prescribes as “normal” for us. All these women have also taught the value of being advocates for inclusion their fields, with each of them helping us break barriers from the inside. This article is the last of this series. It is on Dr. Anna-Marie Imafidon.
“Ola, ola!” With a shoe in her hand, she giggles before explaining, “In English we have a saying ‘what if the shoe was on the other foot?’ The meaning of this saying is to help us imagine a situation but in reverse, to imagine the opposite of the situation. I’ve often wondered how life would be, like if the shoe was on the other foot and girls had been educated before boys. I’ve often wondered what life would be, like if the Bible had been written by women rather than men.” She shares this at her Ted Talk in Barcelona. Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon is a British mathematics and computing child prodigy. She is the youngest girl to ever pass her A-level computing at 11 years old. She also earned a Master’s Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Oxford at the age of 20, in 2010. According to her website, she has honorary doctorates from Open University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Kent University, Bristol University, and an honorary fellowship at Keble College, Oxford.
I’ve done extensive research on Dr. Anne-Marie, whom similar to Dr Wendy Okolo is also a STEM trailblazer. Dr. Ann-Marie is passionate about exposing women to the field. She believes that there should be a sense of purpose for any woman in the field to contribute towards making it inclusive and conducive for inclusivity. Both women carry the mandate to not only to be Black female representatives, but to recruit others who look like them, an attitude we should all have regardless of our profession. In the words of Lauren Simmons, the first Black female to work on Wall Street as a broker on the trading floor in New York, we should not be anomalies in our work spaces. Thus Dr. Ann-Marie founded Stemmettes in 2013, a social enterprise which encourages girls aged 5-22 to pursue careers in STEM. It has since offered approximately 40 000 young girls the opportunity to engage with STEM. These young girls are being socialised in a fashion that generations of feminists have been fighting for- free from traditional gender expectations. “STEM for the many,” is her statement as she elaborates, “Science fiction is becoming all of our realities, and it means it is not something that needs to be just reserved for a certain few or for a small group. It is something that is impacting all of us that is impacting the many. The numbers are widely reported. I think, in Ireland, only 25% of those working in STEM industries are women and that is just not good enough because 51% of those living in this science reality world are women and we need to be shaping and creating as much as everybody else.”
Dr Anne-Marie is not just encouraging young girls to consider STEM, but she gives those who are interested the opportunity to thrive. Similar to, Fatoumata Ba, she too, uses her resources to propel young women into this male dominated space - social justice through equity. Dr. Ann-Marie has an initiative called Outbox, which she confesses that of all her achievements, she is most proud. It is a programme that aims to provide young girls who have innovative business and technology ideas with intensive mentorship, networking opportunities, and funding. Dr Anne-Marie ensures that women who are innovators and problem solvers that they are able to make the world better for all of us. Still in her Ted Talk, she encourages us to invest in young girls who want to solve the world’s problems by going into STEM.
“There is a lot that you can do, start early with the girls around you. We’ve all got daughters, nieces, cousins, goddaughters and friends. Buy them the right kinds of toys and allow them to explore being an engineer or a technologist and don’t try and talk them out of it. And don’t ridicule them for wanting to pick them in life.”
Inspirefest HQ (2018) Dr Anne Marie Imafidon, Stemmetes | Inspirefest 2018. Available at: https://youtu.be/xeuX3dzlCTo [Accessed 23 December 2019]
Tedx Talk (2015) Let’s save the world with girl led starups | Anne Marie Imafidon | TEDxBarcelonaED. Available at: https://youtu.be/OWVU3rP24sl [Accessed 23 December 2019]