In 2015, just a quarter of people working in Ireland’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), industries were women. Technology impacts on many aspects of our daily lives, and helps shape our future. However, there is a key demographic missing in this industry and that is women. In order to address the low representation of women in STEM Anne-Marie Imafidon launched STEMettes in 2013.

STEMettes is an award-winning social enterprise organisation working across the UK, Ireland and beyond to inspire and support young women into STEM.

Their mission:

To inspire the next generation of females into STEM by showing them the amazing women already in STEM via a series of panel events, hackathons, exhibitions, and mentoring schemes.

Putting their vision and mission together co-founder Anne-Marie Imfidon and Mary Carty created the Outbox Incubator programme which took place in July 2015 with the help of Salesforce.org.

The programme, the first of its kind was a 6 week STEM initiative, developed for talented girls aged 11 to 22 from 6 different countries. It took place in a 12 bed-roomed house in South London. Girls were offered seed funding, intensive mentoring and on-going support to launch their innovative businesses in the STEM sector.

The world premier of the documentary Eat.Sleep.STEM.Repeat which was filmed during this unique incubator programme was hosted by Salesforce.org in their Dublin office recently. It’s a revealing story about young female tech entrepreneurs and their Outbox journey. It captures glimpses of the experiences of the 116 girls and their time in the Dragon’s Denmeets Big Brother house. It‘s also a heart-warming exploration into what could happen to the world if more girls were to Eat.Sleep.STEM.Repeat. In it Baroness Martha Lane Fox, Emma McGuigan and Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE speak about the greatest challenge facing our innovative STEM industry.

Some of the main highlights in the documentary were:

–  On the arrival at the house on the first day the reaction by the girls  was “wow”.

–  A selected group presented at the Young Rewired State Festival of Code Birmingham.

–  Lots of Apps addressing social good, and women’s issues were created and ranged from: Wearables to stop catcalling and apps for electric cars.

Skills in the Outbox groups included:

–  Developers

–  Coders

–  Business Leaders

–  Graphic Designers

Mid-way through the programme the girls presented at a Demo Day. They pitched their businesses and ideas to investors and people from industry for real money. Their pitches, some of which related to their own real-life experiences and problems were full of:

–  Passion

–  Energy

–  Confidence

–  Ideas

–  Problems

–  Innovative solutions

Logistics – Doing and Preparing:

Setting up the house was a challenge and took much work and organisation by the STEMettes team.

Food was very important, and was a great leveller.

Free food tastes better than food you pay for.

Watching the documentary it was clear that there was a great sense of sister-hood, collaboration, fun, innovation and happiness, not just between the girls but with everyone involved in the programme. The 6 weeks concluded with an emotional graduation.

STEMette Reflections:

The Outbox Incubator initiative was a big learning curve for all involved. It was about normalising STEM for girls and creating an environment where they could thrive.

The main take away was the knowledge that there is a huge need and hunger for this type of support for girls. That it’s important to build a place that encourages a sense of community, of coming together and having the opportunities to innovate, of sharing dreams and belonging.

Some of the many initiatives that the Outbox Incubator gave birth to were:

–  29 companies, many of which received investment

–  ‘Digital Girl of the Year 2015’ – Niamh Scanlon

–  Various apps

–  Ted Talks

–  Future leaders

–  Mentors

–  Role models

Personal reflection:

Watching the Eat.Sleep.STEM.Repeat documentary it was hard not to be touched by the amazing work done by the girls, and everyone else involved in the programme, the STEMettes team, mentors and speakers. It truly felt like the start of something big, an unstoppable force and a positive move forward for women in STEM. What struck me the most was that the changes are happening from the ground up and these girls are the trailblazers. They are clearing the way for others to follow in their footsteps and are affirming that:

It’s ok to be your true self, follow your dreams, you have the power to change the world.

Discussion and insights after the documentary:

Mary Carty said that the key message to learn from this initiative is that women participating in STEM related areas must become more normal.  She believes we need more of these initiatives and that it’s completely doable. About the girls she added:

They brought their own selves.

On the question of who is responsible it for this to happen, Terri Moloney, Director, Employee Success, Salesforce.org answered:

We must all take responsibility, parents, government, third level institutions, and employers.

It’s a full spectrum of everyone.

Mark Stanley, VP, Web Marketing & Marketing Operations EMEA, Salesforce.org added:

Diverse companies are successful companies from a business perspective.

They reflect the world we live in.

As a parent, my daughter having fewer opportunities than boys doesn’t resonate with me.

Future Plans:

Mary Carty announced that the next Outbox Incubator programme is set to come to Dublin this year. She urged everyone to help make it happen.

Find out how you can host your own preview of The Eat.Sleep.STEM.Repeat documentary by visiting the Outbox website.


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