To celebrate International Women’s Day, we are sharing stories from some of our female leaders and academics over the next week. Today, Charini Gunaratne, Senior Lecturer Discipline of Psychological Science, reflects on juggling a full-time academic career with motherhood.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut. That ambition was a driving force for me to move half-way across the world from Sri Lanka to the US to complete a Bachelors’ degree in Astrophysics and Psychology. I always knew I wanted to become an academic. I subsequently completed a PhD in Psychology in Australia and became a Lecturer in Psychology, pursuing a very different career pathway. I still have an interest in Astronomy and would love to go into space one day.
What’s been your greatest achievement to date?
Probably successfully completing and submitting my PhD while in labour and subsequently giving birth to my eldest son!
How have you found being a woman, working in your sector?
I have been fortunate to be working in a sector where women do have a more equal role and are recognised for their contributions. I have personally found it challenging to juggle a full-time academic career with motherhood, though it has become easier to manage as my children have grown older. I am looking forward to future opportunities and taking my career further.
Tell us about any female role models in your life?
I have been surrounded by many incredible female role models in my life, the most important being my mother who continues to inspire and motivate me. My mother gave up her career to focus on family, but took on many voluntary roles, later running a successful home-business, and is still very much involved in community and volunteer work. Her boundless energy always amazes me. I also work with a number of female colleagues who are incredibly capable, dedicated, and hardworking, and I am truly awed by what they achieve on a daily basis.
What are you ‘choosing to challenge’ on this International Women’s Day?
I am choosing to challenge gender inequality and seek a global platform for equality and inclusivity for all.
What is your advice to women wanting to pursue their dreams?
Always follow your dreams. Consider what your goals in life are, and then work towards achieving them. Life will certainly throw curveballs at you, and you may end up following a different pathway than what you originally set out on, but that doesn’t mean the end result is less meaningful. Gender should never be a barrier and should not stop anyone from achieving what they set out to achieve in life.