• Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Countdown’s Anne-Marie Imafidon and the toxic myth of “diversity hires”

Dec 21, 2021

Anne-Marie Imafidon has been announced as the new co-host of Countdown  and despite being voted the most influential woman in IT in 2020 and gaining a masters degree in mathematics from Oxford at 19 years old, critics have questioned her appointment when they shouldnt.

When someone makes history, it’s often a moment of celebration as they and the people around them herald their achievements while acknowledging what it took to get to where they are. 

For Anne-Marie Imafidon, the announcement that she has been appointed co-host of Countdown while Rachel Riley is on maternity leave was a moment to do just that. Not only is she celebrating her new role, but she’s also becoming the first Black woman to co-host the iconic puzzle show alongside Anne Robinson and Susie Dent.

It’s a pretty massive feat, considering the longstanding popularity of the daytime TV show and its legions of loyal fans – but while many celebrated Anne-Marie’s achievement, there were some who were hellbent on not only doubting her suitability for the role but were also asking if she was hired because of her skin colour.

As Channel 4 took to Twitter to announce the news on Monday, some people took to social media to discredit the Stemettes CEO, suggesting that her appointment was because of her race and not her credentials.

“Something tells me there are politically progressive motivations behind Rachel Riley’s replacement,” one person tweeted, while another said: “That poor woman, must be awful knowing you didn’t get the job because of your intelligence alone but that the main driving factor was your skin colour.”

The idea that anytime a person of colour steps into a role that it is in part due to “diversity” is a toxic way to demean the efforts of people of colour and question how they get into positions of power and seniority – because surely we can’t be in these positions just because we’re that good right?

Anne-Marie was voted the most influential woman in IT in the UK in 2020, made history as the youngest ever graduate with a Master’s degree from Oxford at the age of 19 and passed A-Level computing aged just 11.

Not to mention, she speaks six languages, and worked for banks including Goldman Sachs before she created Stemettes, a platform that helps women pursue careers in STEM. 

Yet her qualifications aren’t the focal point for some. All they see is a Black woman in a very visible role and somehow it’s purely down to her race – and quite frankly, it’s a lazy way of thinking.

The idea that some businesses actively branch out and look for candidates outside of a particular standard has somehow led to people assuming people of colour are being hired for their race and their race alone and it says a lot about how people view people of colour in this country, particularly when placed in high positions. 

Diversity in the workplace doesn’t equal a leg up for people of colour and this was something echoed by many on social media who rushed to defend Anne-Marie against the naysayers.

MP Dawn Butler tweeted: “Do your research before assuming something negative based on the colour of a person’s skin. @aimafidon is phenomenal! 2 A-Levels at 11, at 20 Master’s degree in mathematics and computer science from University of Oxford. There’s more but I ain’t got time.”

Another wrote: “Not all heroes wear capes. It’s so massive to see incredible women like Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon on a main TV channel. My maths isn’t great but I’ll be tuning in and brushing up my skills. Keep going! We’re all behind you.”

A third said: “The audacity to call Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon a “diversity appointment” when she is the most qualified person to ever host Countdown.”

Anne-Marie’s brilliance is well documented for those to see and labelling her a diversity hire is representative more of the people who think that than of Anne-Marie herself.

As the Oxford graduate will be co-host for 60 episodes ahead of Rachel Riley’s return, it will be great to see her bring her brilliance to the show.

Image: Channel 4

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