SAARI Collective invites you to join our International Women's Day series - every day, women of colour are blazing trails in their fields and leading their communities, but their achievements aren’t always recognised. Valuing their contributions and achievements is vital to advancing gender and racial equality and to showcasing the voices of women of colour all around.
We invite you to join us in recognising and celebrating their efforts, achievements and immense contributions - follow along as we profile some resilient and inspiring women of colour over the coming days.
Today, we celebrate Dr Mandvi Bharadwaj - a leader who juggles many hats, all of them with grace, a smile, and a kind heart.
“Be yourself. Understand your strength and weaknesses, be honest, flexible and non-judgemental, actively engage in empowering others, stand up against any sort of discrimination.”
She is driven to make a genuine, positive impact. Professionally this is reflected in her extensive achievements and leadership to progress medical development, and more generally through her advocacy of equal opportunities for women and active mentoring of young women at different stages and range of careers. Currently, she heads the Gene Therapy & Novel Medicines unit within the Scientific Evaluation Branch at the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Department of Health Australia.
She is also a member of the RMIT-Biomedical Engineering Industry advisory board, gives annual guest lectures on Regulation of therapeutic goods to RMIT-Biomedical Engineering students, and is an honorary Associate Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Melbourne where she worked until 2011. Previously, amongst other positions, she acted as Chairperson of the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee (AIVC) and was a member of the World Health Organisation’s Advisory Panel for consultations on Influenza Virus Vaccine composition (2015-2020).
Mandvi has a Doctoral degree in Life Sciences complemented by a Master’s in Science and a Master's in Health and Medical Law (UniMelb). With over 11 years of experience in Therapeutic goods regulation and over 20 years of academic experience gained at the University of Melbourne, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Westmead Hospital (NSW), All India Institute of Medical Sciences and King George’s Medical College (India), Mandvi has led inter-disciplinary and multi-institutional collaborative research teams (national and international) to produce highly productive public health outcomes publishing her findings as co-author in scientific reviews, book chapters and top-ranking international journals on a broad range of topics.
Reflected in all of her work is a strong woman who leads by example. She believes “leadership is the ability to inspire and motivate people, support them to set a vision and achieve their goals, being honest, understanding, flexible and non-judgemental". She says it is important for girls to have strong role models as “seeing is believing, having strong role models motivates girls to achieve their full potential. It enhances their confidence and also expands their vision to possibilities and the efforts required to achieve their goals”.
She advises aspiring South Asian girls to step into leadership by networking with professionals in diverse fields to expand their knowledge and perspective, and to proactively seek and apply for leadership opportunities.
For her International Women’s Day “is a day to celebrate womanhood, recognise women’s contributions and achievements socially and in diverse professional fields, reflect on what needs to change for better lives of our less-privileged sisters especially the girl child in less developed parts of the world and continue to support, encourage, appreciate and uplift each other”.
Reflecting on 2021, she notes “Jacinta Arden demonstrated commendable leadership qualities successfully juggling the responsibilities of the highest national office and a new mum with such grace, efficiency, resilience, strength, empathy and dignity.”
This year, Mandvi wants to break the bias by seeing gender equality at work and home, as well as “equal rights and opportunities for every individual based on skills, education, capabilities and experience”. She believes “gender bias is probably more pronounced in most South Asian cultures. As such, South Asian women often lack the confidence to speak up and share their opinions and views freely, assert their rights, and stand up against discrimination at home or work. It is therefore important to address these issues by customised (formal and informal) mentoring.”
True to her words, Mandvi works to find opportunities to mentor women both in and outside of work, taking care to understand their perspectives, to support and inspire them on their journeys. In her spare time, Mandvi loves gardening and music and has pursued these interests with care throughout the pandemic. For her, “the pandemic was a humbling experience, it redefined priorities and emphasised the importance of the basic needs, family, communication, sharing resources and supporting others.”
When asked what she is proud of, she responded “I am proud of never compromising my moral values, work ethic and principles and the difference I have made to other people’s lives, especially the bright young women I have had the opportunity to mentor.”
“I look forward to continuing my efforts for a better future for generations ahead.”
You can connect with Dr Mandvi via Linkedin.
Anmol Atreya is a science and technology writer at SAARI, who is passionate about biotechnology, blockchain technology and poetry. Based in Melbourne, she has a background in innovation and strategy advisory. You can connect with Anmol via Linkedin.