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Dr. Marlene Kanga, Elect for the World Federation of Engineering Organizations

Dr. Marlene Kanga, the president-elect for the World Federation of Engineering Organizations chose to speak on motherhood, and the reason why she truly believes there is a lot of potentials especially among second-generation Indian in Australia

The second Sunday of the month of May is celebrated as Mother’s Day. It celebrates motherhood and aspects of being a mother. It is a day that recognizes the influence of mothers in the society.

It is difficult being a woman in a man’s world and it is more difficult to make a mark. There are few women in number who have done so and have done this with full conviction. Dr Marlene Kanga is one such woman. Dr. Marlene Kanga is the President-elect for the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO), a topmost body for engineering institutions internationally with nearly 20 million engineers from over 90 national institutions and 10 regional and international institutions under its umbrella. Dr. Marlene Kanga is an alumnus of IIT Bombay and has completed a Master’s degree at the Imperial College London with a PhD from Macquarie University.

Dr. Marlene Kanga was born and brought up in a family who were trendsetters and had several role models around her. Dr. Kanga says that her mother a school teacher always enthused “a sense of confidence and empowerment and from her family she learnt that leadership is a privilege that should be served.

Dr. Marlene Kangrasays she opted to become an engineer as she is a very practical person. And it is only after she entered the field of engineering she realised that there are very few women engineers. Even in Australia, 25 years back, women engineers were rare. In fact, it was she the second woman engineer to be hired by Esso, Australia! While to be the only woman in her class and even at the WFEO, Dr. Kanga believes that the Indian diaspora has unique and significant value to Australia in terms of our cultural familiarity, our intellectual capacity especially in science, technology and engineering, our business and family networks and our ability to take risk”. These are the factors which are crucial for Australia’s engagement with Asia to develop entrepreneurship, business for innovation.

As an Indian Australian in this multicultural society, she would be like other Indians in Australia who are to be proud of their heritage and contribution to Australia. It is her assertion that “there is a lot of potential especially among the second generation Indian Australians and that she is very sure that they will be very successful in future.
According to Dr. Kanga’s view since globally there is a shortage of people with skills in engineering, science and technology the demand for people with these skills will continue to rise as new technologies and innovations do emerge. And this is the biggest challenge that Australian Indians do have come across to. People should not shy away from these disciplines due to the initial struggles they may pose. In the US, majority of the leading companies have US-Indians at the helm. 20 percent of engineers in are from India in Silicon Valley. Moreover, Indians have started 20 percent of tech start-ups.

According to Dr. Kanga, there is no strong reason to why Indian Australians can not to be equally successful. Indians either here or there have the same skills and spark.They need to dream big and should have the confidence in our capabilities.This is the right time and opportunity for Indian in Australia to take up leadership roles in technology, business, entrepreneurship, academia and politics with confidence. It is the need of the hour to challenge the stereotypes that could be seen in the mainstream media. We have started to see this happen in universities and there has been a few of great business and entrepreneurial successes. But we need to have more. It is the numbers that will eventually provide the role models to show the way and enable the community to break through the ‘grass’ ceiling. We need to do this for us, our families and for Australia.”

A woman, no matter whatever her career and position she may be pursuing she is also a mother. And being a working mom is like a tough task—there are obstacles that range from scheduling nightmares and extreme exhaustion while juggling between home and work. According to Dr. Kanga her children are a constant source of joy. She says although she not very much organized throughout motherhood, she is proud that her sons have turned out to be “the most inspiring, wonderful young men. She derives satisfaction from simple things in life that money cannot buy and values time, friendship, and family more than anything else. She feels that she is very fortunate to have a loving and supportive family and does have a career that permits her to contribute to engineering a better world.

To be a woman in a man’s world may have become increasingly common but not easy. Dr. Kanga believes that all we have to do is follow the path that with our own confidence and capabilities.

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