Dr Ida Asadi Someh is no stranger to gender imbalance, experiencing it first-hand in her career and breaking down barriers in the process. This courageous and celebrated researcher urges other women to challenge the status quo to achieve their own version of success.
Now working as an academic in Business Information Systems at The University of Queensland Business School, Dr Asadi Someh’s first job in her home country was advertised for male applicants only.
She was very keen to get the job and insisted on talking to the manager. After a few days of interviews and conversations, she got the job. The position helped her build the self-confidence she needed to forge her career.
What drives you to step outside your comfort zone?
In my career, there have been many moments when I’ve felt out of my comfort zone. For example, when I started working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), I felt so small. My way to counteract nerves was to stay strong, work hard to make the most of the opportunity and believe that it’s possible for good things to happen.
How do you challenge the status quo when it comes to gender norms?
One thing I learned early on working in typically male-dominated engineering and IT disciplines, is there’s an unspoken bubble around me (and many females) based on stigma. That bubble represents society’s expectations of us and the thought that ‘you can’t do this because you’re a female’.
Once you burst that bubble, you realise the traditional rules that hold women back don’t make sense.
The best way to break through is to step outside your comfort zone and question everything. Then, you’ll realise you’re much stronger than you originally thought.
Another gendered challenge I’ve encountered in my career is having to be authoritative when leading teams consisting of older men. I had to question what it means to be authoritative and teach myself how to put this into practice. It didn’t come naturally.
Why do you think education is so important in advancing a woman’s career?
In my personal experience, education was the only way for me to progress in my home country and be confident to influence the world for positive change.
I think this is still the case for many females around the world; influencing change is empowering. I think we need to praise women for their skills and achievements.
Success in education gives me a real sense of value and achievement.
Why do you think mentoring is so important?
One strength we have as females is that we’re more likely to put ourselves in positions to get feedback and work collaboratively with others. I have learned so much from talking to strong female mentors who have a clear, impactful vision, and who bring people together.
It’s important to me to mentor, inspire and encourage the next generation of female academics. In practice, this means supporting young women to discover that they can come up with their own interesting ideas and should trust their abilities.
What excites you about your current role?
As an academic, I can think independently about issues that affect society and define projects in a way that can affect the greater good. This can sometimes be harder if you work in industry and have commercial goals.
One example of a project I’ve been particularly passionate about recently is my recent award-winning work on the ethics of big data.
What’s been the biggest ‘pinch me’ moment of your career?
Having my PhD thesis passed without any revision and winning the Vice-Chancellor’s award for best PhD thesis. It was such a relief and an inspiration for me to do more.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
I think there needs to be an active push to profile more positive female role models across a wide range of sectors.
I believe in the power of sharing positive stories of successful females.
Historically, the number of female leaders in science has not been high. Hearing their stories and learning how they overcame their challenges opens up new opportunities and helps other women to believe in our abilities regardless of gender.
How do you define success?
I focus on sentiment rather than just outcomes. Outcomes will come as long as you do the right things. So for me, success is feeling happy about what I am doing.
What piece of advice has changed your life that you think would help other women?
Choose to work with good people rather than being driven to work for titles and brands.