Innovation, which is traditionally defined as any idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption, is a vital part of Nordwit research, as we aim to learn more about mechanisms supporting or working as obstacles for women’s careers in technology-driven research and innovation in and outside of academe. The focus in two sub-projects is on innovation systems as sites of study which consist of institutions and networks across public, private and knowledge sectors that have as one goal the promotion of activities related to research, development and innovation. In these sites of our bottom-up study, we meet and interview women as well as companies, institutions, funders and other relevant actors, that contribute to the innovation landscape. In this context we collect stories about women’s experiences, and we discuss challenges and strategies related to gender equality in the institutions.
It is really a gift of life. An eternal moment. I am having them more frequently these days. This picture was taken by Marco during one of such moments. The moment when time itself is unhinged. Neither passing nor still. When ones focus is neither sharp nor blurred. You can hear, see, smell and feel everything and nothing. Things seem to unravels out of their duality. You are neither here nor there. Not on land and not at sea or in the air. You are not happy per say and not unhappy either. Theres no past and no present. No good, no evil. Some would say its when «time stands still». It could last the period between a split second or longer, even much much longer – during such moments, the concepts of time and space are non-existent. Like now, im watching the sunset, paddling, Makeba on my ear. At first my heartbeat matches the beating of her patapata drums. An eager sway follows each scoop of the salty water. There is no single soul out here, this is lovely … then im gone …. until baby Aleni’s screech from Gamlehytta, the family cabin, pierces the smooth evening breeze, disintegrating the moment… and I don’t know anymore how long i have been a sitting duck on these beautiful waters at Lamholmen. (Republished Facebook post).
I felt a cold shiver run down my spine. The monster was back. My throat felt like a prison, my words wrapped and trapped in fear and inadequacy. You see, I know this feeling because it has happened many times before. Each time, I feel debilitated. Alone. Succumbed. I feel like a fraud, an imposter, a gate-crusher. I warn myself; I am not supposed to be here, and any time now, I am going to be unraveled. Also, I have noticed that such episodes proceed a success of some sort or a milestone; won a prize, a successful research grant, acclaimed publication, a Conference presentation spot and the like.
This time round, I just recieved the good news about a hefty and prestigious research grant, actually, the 6th in a row, and four months into my new job as an academic. The project is ambitious and impactful and it brings together a team of highly skilled experts with me as it’s team leader. At our usual staff lunches, my boss announces the good news, and she asks me to say something. Only, I can’t move, nor can I speak. Ladies and gentlemen, I am having an accute episode of the Imposter syndrom (IS).
Langford and Clance (1993) suggest that IS is the “psychological experience of believing that one’s accomplishments came about not through genuine ability, but as a result of having been lucky, having worked harder than others…”. I first learnt of the phenomenon about one year ago during an academic women’s network meeting. In this Meeting, a female professor shared her experiences of the leaking pipeline and the awkward and sometimes unpleasant reality of being a sole female professional in a male dominated field. IS was a common occurance in her worklife but she had devised a defence mechanism, which I shared in an earlier blog. Since then, I have learnt, to my astonishment, that over 70% of the population experience IS (including pretty known names such as Emma Watson, Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks, etc). It happens to men, women, young and old and in all professions. It does not matters, that one is high perfomance, highly skilled and accomplished.
Anxiety, self-doubt, depression, unachieved dreams/potential and ultimately ‘leaking through the pipeline’ are some of the cited effects of IS. High expectations of oneself and grave made-up repurcussions of not meeting these expectations is key to understanding this phenomenon. IS can strike seldom or frequently: in new settings or new environment, particlualry academia; at the workplace but also in social interactions – romantic or social relationships, etc. The diagnosis in key studies on IS suggests 3 interrelated culprits for this insidious phenomenon: Upbringing, Personality and Culture:
Upbringing and family dynamics: IS studies in Psychology lay heavy significance on the family dynamics particluarly what happened along the way that makes someone susceptible to IS. Such studies and ‘treatment’ attempt to unveil the source and layers of self-doubt leading to the need to prove to others that they are bright. The advice here: is in self love and the ability to generate self-esteem from within oneself. Its really a shift to self rather than others as a responce to ones own learning needs. Recognize IS and call the imposter out. You are enough – says Lous Solomon in her TEDtalk on ‘The Surprising solution to the Imposter syndrom’.
Personality and perfectionism: It is also called the superwoman or superman mentality in which sufferers push themselves pretty hard in a bead to measure up to others’ approval and achnowledgement. Often such people are workaholics to the detriment of their sidelined passions or hobbies. For these soloists, intelligence is viewed as a stable trait and mistakes are believed to indicate personal failure and inadequacy. The advice here: Lower performance goals as the locus of self evaluation and reprogram the mind to the believe that it is okey to fail. Infact it is from failure that success sometimes emerges.
Socio-cultural baggage: Sexism, racism and classism have been implicated in IS cases. In fact, intersecting identities especially in academia and STEM fields are particularly incriminated especially if the identity is visible. (Some examples on race and gender in Tech). The keywords here are marginality, minority, isolation. It often is in untrodden paths with a shortage of role models to pave the way and shin a torch. So then the combination of isolation, persistent (hegemonic feminist) stereotypes, culture of silence and shame, lack of role models coupled with IS’ insidious nature makes women more susceptible than men. The comparative studies behind these asssertions suggest that men suffering from IS cope better because they are backed by hegemonic patriarchal cultures and the subsequent comfort in numbers. The advise here would be the slogan ‘I am enough’. It will be okey. Speak up! This, in addition to (in the longer term anyway) finding peers, associations, mentors to help navigate the less or uncharted path.
So, yes, I am enough. Failure is good (sometimes). I am smart and it is okey to NOT know everthing. So, get off my back monster!
Some interesting materials
Harvey, J. C. (1981). The impostor phenomenon and achievement: A failure to internalize success. (Doctoral dissertation, Temple University, 1981). Dissertation Abstracts International, 42, 4969B
We have just been honoured with research funds from The Norwegian Media Authority in conjunction with the Lottery Authority and SPILLFORSK (Videogame Research Authority) to pursue Action Research on video game regulation. The research focusing on non-western families across Norway will commence with needs assessment and wind with concret resources and skill on regulating video games.
The Research consortium, that also includes 2 NGOs working with immigrant familes and related activities includes researchers from 3 miljø: Carol Azungi Dralega (PhD) Coordinating; Bjørg Marit Nyjordet (PhD stipendiat) NLA Mediehøgskolen Kristiansand; Gilda Seddighi (PhD); Hilde G. Corneliussen (PhD) Vestlandsforsking; Lin Prøitz (PhD) UiO.
Forebygging mot problemspilling blant ikke-vestlig ungdom: Et samarbeidsprosjekt med familien i fokus
Dette forsknings- og utviklingsprosjektet (FoU) har som mål å bidra til forebyggende kunnskap og løsning mot dataspillproblemer blant ikke-vestlig ungdom og familier i Norge gjennom: a) å kartlegge behovet, og b) utvikle konkrete tiltak, i c) samarbeid med aktuelle aktører.
Prosjektet bygger på resultater fra to tidligere RAM-finansierte undersøkelser om dataspill med fokus på ungdommer, og i et familieperspektiv. Ved hjelp av aksjonsforskning vil prosjektet, i dialog med aktørene, utvikle langsiktige og målrettede løsninger med ikke-vestlig ungdom og deres familier som utgangspunkt.
In 2013, partner institutions: Uganda Christian University (UCU); NLA Gimlekollen University College in Norway and University of KwazuluNatal in South Africa recieved about 11 Million Norwegian Kroners from the NORHED/NORAD Program to undertake a 5-year capacity building project for UCU.
As the 5th year winds, the project’s core objective attained include:
5 Phds and a running Masters course with several grads. We have had over 20 publications and more are in the pipeline. In addition, 8 exchange Masters students have been to Norway. A multimedia lab has also been established at UCU in addition to over 550 books installed in…
Bjørn is definately not your typical Norwegian. Bjørn is Ugandan. I first met Bjørn in Norway when a friend brought him to meet me and my family not only because we were living in neighbouring municipalities, but mainly becasue I am Ugandan. That lovely evening, seneraded by Ugandan/African music, we dined and socialized to much cheer and deep nostalgic conversation – about Uganda. Bjørn had impecable knowledge about Uganda, and not just general knowledge, but that insidious kind that one only gets when they have deep and vested connections and relationships with a place and its people – I was blown away!
The very next morning was a Sunday and I was woken by an urgent knock on the door. And guess who it was? Bjørn.
“Carol, can you rap?”
Bjørn asked, beaming with excitement. He had forgotten to say hei first!
‘Hæ? Rap? Me?’ I muttered. Confused.
Had Bjørn forgotten that I am a shy academic researcher and not a rap artist – and to make matters worse, who speaks broken nynorsk! I wondered.
So, right there, in the hallway, before I could invite him to our messy lounge, Bjørn ‘rapped’ what all this was about. There was a big gathering the following weekend with over 150 guests and Bjørn, being a well-known, well respected and vocal humanitarian in the small community, had been invited as guest of honour. He was to say something about his humanitarian work in Uganda. Bjørn then devised a most ingenious strategy to relay his message – incorporate his speech with a norsk rap-dance duet with a 45 year-old Ugandan female researcher living in Sogndal. As terrifying but terrific as this idea was, I regret to say I was unable to support my friend – we were travelling away for that Easter weekend. Needless to say, the event was a big success!
In the moments I describe above – an understanding of this man and his bigger-than-life personality began to emerge. I quickly learnt, and through subsequent events, the dedication of a man, who, on retirement – choose, not to lay back, relax and enjoy the comforts earned through many years of hard work, but instead roll-up his sleeves, reach out and submerge himself in bettering the lives of less fortunate people thousands of miles away in Uganda. His target was orphaned children and their destitute, widowed HIV/Aids-infected mothers.
Bjørn refers to the 190 orphans at Kazinga Community Infants School as ‘My children’ and himself as a proud father. The childrens love is reciprocal. They call him ‘Dad’, a notion, emotionally packed, given that kids have no real life dads. He knows each and everyone of them personally. He is involved in every structural and organizational and personal development of the staff, children and School. He has a hands-on approach from making sure they have scholarstic materials, to mosquito nets, to atleast 2 meals a day to fostering sound structures for running the school. Today, he just oriented me on how he has his hand on solar lamps for the children to do their homework – since electricity is a problem.
“I managed to get these at 30% discount, how great is that! Now my kids can do their homework! and they will recieve these as Christmas presents on Sunday at the Graduation ceremony” he enthuses.
Yesterday, he made a deal with Bata, a local shoe company to obtain 200 pairs for his kids at 40%. ‘ This saves us alot of money that we can then use to cover the other necessitites. He argues.
In Norway, fundraising campaigns have attracted about 150 sponsors from Sogn, where 21 of these are from his home town of 130 inhabitants.
His work in Uganda also includes collaborations with several ministries including: Tourism, Finance, Agriculture and Forestry and several Parliamentary committes including Nutrition among others.
My visit to the Kazinga kids was an uplifting experience for these kids reminded me of me at that age. Despite the challenges, these kids had at twinkle in their eager and curious eyes and in that moment I was certain, they will do their best to attain bright futures.
I know this piece of positive reflection about Bjørns work completely embarasses him 🙂 but what I saw is very good and a tap on the back is in order. Just one or two last embarassing things – A recent survey done by a Tanzanian education body ranked Kazinga Community Infants School one of the best achievers (grades and pupil happiness) in East Africa – just a reminder that a) no amount of support is too little and b) the fundamental values of love, humanity and hard work can be great recipes for success – even in the face of the worst advacities.
For Bjørn though, advacity means opportunity. So when we drove (or rather he drove) from Ntinda towards town, I felt, as a Ugandan, I should offer some (tour) guide services. So, I shared: Bjørn, right here is the New Vision Publishers where I worked for several years before going to Norway. To which Bjørn answered: ‘I know’. Okey. Here is the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Bjørn: ‘I know, the Minister is my friend and I have been there many times’. This weird exchange continued for a while. At which point, I resigned and asked to exchange my new role as tour guide – which Bjørn happily and so informedly executed to our sheer amusement! Kjære Bjørn, you are a Ugandan!