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May 16, 2022

Turning diversity into a superpower

Born in Tamil-speaking southern India, Anita Kumar was the first girl in her family to leave home at 17 to go to university.

Today Anita lives in Sydney and is an experienced CEO, social entrepreneur and passionate advocate for the rights of children and families, especially those dealing with complex life issues or living in vulnerable circumstances.

But her decision in 1990 to study engineering eight hours from home was less about following in the footsteps of her father - an early adopter of technology who worked at the University of Madras- and more about putting off marriage.

“It was just a way to get some time. I can’t tell you what a great opportunity that was for four years,” Anita tells Claire in this podcast. After her final exam, her parents were there straight away. “I knew what was coming.”

And so it was that Anita and her then husband arrived in Australia in the late 90s. In this podcast, Anita describes the isolation and difficulty negotiating a new life as a young mother in a strange country, the discrimination she faced applying for jobs in her early career and how she turned diversity into her superpower.

“I spoke fluent English and I had never faced discrimination before that but now it was hitting me from all directions. But all I can say is I wouldn't be who I am today, if not for those six years.”

From volunteering with Burwood Community Welfare services, helping domestic violence survivors, Anita then worked her way from an admin role at The Infant’s Home Child and Family Services in Ashfield to become CEO.

In 2012 she joined 150 other CEOs from around the world on the Executive Education program at Harvard Business School looking at non-profit management.

Since 2017 she has been the CEO of Early Start, a collaborative initiative between the Commonwealth Government, The Abbott Foundation and the University of Wollongong to positively impact on the life trajectories of children growing up in regional and remote Australia.

Anita Kumar  (guest)
Claire Braund (host)

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