Mudhita Lawania BSc ’18, BEng (Hons) ‘18

Article written by Dr Alex Schumann-Gillett (PhD '19), from the ANU Women's Alumni Network.
21 June 2021

I've had to look very hard to find role models who have similar backgrounds, talents, interests and aspirations to me, so I strive to make it easy for younger women and girls, especially those in STEM and women of colour, to see what people like them are

Mudhita Lawania, known by her friends as MD, is a systems engineer who loves learning and empowering other women. Having received the first year guarantee with acceptance into the ANU Research and Development program in 2014, Mudhita studied a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) majoring in Mechanical and Materials Systems as well as a Bachelor of Science majoring in Physics and specialising in Astronomy and Astrophysics. 

Mudhita says that the best thing about studying science and engineering at ANU was, "the friends I've made, and the systems engineering way of thinking. This methodology can be used for all problems - from complex physical capabilities to human centred design problems because it is not just a methodology and series of steps to follow, it is a way of thinking that I strongly believe can be applied to all problems". 

Mudhita has many fond memories from her time at ANU, with "most from the engineering lab - the late nights, the banter and the assignments finished at the last minute! That is where I met my friends who are my lifelong second family, where I learnt to appreciate the diversity of thought that engineering requires and where I met colleagues who will definitely be the future leaders of the industry". 

While completing her studies, Mudhita was a mentor for 1st year women in engineering as part of the gender equity organisation, Fifty50. She also participated in the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) vacationer program. She then joined PwC Canberra in their Management Consulting practice, where she is currently a Senior Consultant working as a systems engineer on a Defence project. One of Mudhita's goals is "to continue to find opportunities to work with and learn from amazing women, and find mentorships and sponsorship across a range of people and personalities, as one of [her] aims as a future leader is to mentor women, especially women of colour in STEM fields". 

Reflecting on her journey so far, Mudhita shares that "burning out hard at multiple points in time in high school, uni and even the workplace has taught me the importance of self-care and learning when to say no or step back. I have learned my way through these burn outs by  listening to mental and physical cues to realise when it is time to take a break. This has shown me how important self-compassion is, as I believe that women are much harder on themselves and find it even harder to say no because it is so ingrained into us since we were young".

On gender equality,  Mudhita believes that the biggest hurdle facing women today is "Women need to continue to support other women and we can't see each other as competition because in that situation the person who wins is male. Also, unconscious bias, confidence gaps, and lack of opportunities and lack of role models - we have to sometimes be our own role model and that is really hard." 

On critical actions that we can take to reach gender equality, Mudhita says, "Intersectionality needs to be a big part of gender equality as everyone is affected by it; we need to continue to set systems in place that promote equality and break down the archaic systems that have existed over the last so many years that deter/make it harder for women to get to leadership positions; that take away the choice from women."

To shine a light on women Mudhita looks up to and thinks others should be familiar with, the top three women that Mudhita would have dinner with if given the chance are, "Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsi, Kamala Harris for being the first Black/Indian VP - and first woman to hold that position, and Kalpana Chawla who was the first Indian woman in space. These are just some of the women who broke through the glass ceiling, which is a lot higher for women of colour". Mudhita looks to seek out other women who have pushed past all the barriers to be a better example for future women. 

In popular culture, Mudhita recommends, "The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is the perfect book to take you through the conflict that 1st/2nd generation immigrants feel over their names, cultural values and where they fit. This is very close to me as it talks about how people of colour with ethnic or difficult to pronounce names can often feel different, and the story behind that name can be a significant part of the person's life." She adds, "the movie Hidden Figures is the most amazing story of women in tech breaking the ceiling that was even higher to reach because they were women of colour - in tech!!"

When thinking about her future, Mudhita wants to "find a path towards senior leadership and be visible to younger women like me. I've had to look very hard to find role models who have similar backgrounds, talents, interests and aspirations to me, so I strive to make it easy for younger women and girls, especially those in STEM and women of colour, to see what people like them are capable of - what they could aspire to - from a young age. ". She continues, "I aspire to never stop learning and always keep growing - whether it is in the field that I am working in or the concepts surrounding feminism, intersectionality and more". Her dream job is "anywhere where I get to listen to people and their stories, and solve problems whether it be technical, human, organisational etc". 

Mudhita leaves us with advice to women starting out in her field, "seek out other women who share your values, and find those mentors that will help you reach the top of your career. Don't let anyone ever dim your passion or excitement for life, or let yourself change just because you don't naturally match with their energy. Make sure you stand up for yourself and stand up for what is right - it is a long and hard journey ahead to true equality and even the tiniest positive step can have the biggest impacts in our and our future generation's lives."

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