Pain becomes purpose for UN Women MBA scholarship winner

1 December 2022
Recipient aims to help vulnerable women and children
Leadership is an opportunity to support vulnerable and at-risk women for Martha Vasquez, the latest recipient of the University of Sydney Business School UN Women Australia MBA scholarship, whose focus is informed by her own experiences of both discrimination and depression.

Martha Vasquez

Vasquez has been awarded the UN Women Australia MBA scholarship, which funds the study of the University of Sydney Business School’s part-time MBA. The scholarship aims to promote gender equality at the most senior levels of the nation's public, corporate and not-for-profit sectors, and is worth over $60,000.

Right after high school, Vasquez entered the nursing profession, specialising in midwifery and then child and family health as she gradually worked her way up from enrolled nurse to chief executive officer.

Her current role is Executive General Manager of Operations at Growing Potential, where she manages six childcare centres and an early intervention and disability support service for children 0-14 years across Western Sydney. Vasquez also volunteers on the Board at Leichardt Women’s Community Health Centre, which provides a unique model of community-based healthcare to women and children across the inner west and southwest suburbs of Sydney.

A constant in her shifting roles is a passion for helping the most vulnerable and at-risk in the community, inspired by her childhood and later experiences.

Martha was awarded her Master of Advanced Nursing (Nurse Management) in 2019.

“As the daughter of ‘new Australians’, I was always ‘othered’. My food was weird, we didn’t have a fancy house and I didn’t eat vegemite sandwiches at lunch. I felt this throughout my early life and it meant I was always desperate to fit in. This pain turned into the passion of hard work which then gave me my purpose – my purpose was high achievement,” Vasquez said.

“When I had my first daughter at 27, I was diagnosed with anxiety and postnatal depression. Even though I was already a midwife as well as a child and family health nurse, I had set the bar so high for myself that it was impossible to meet my own standards. I had tremendous guilt and shame around the depression because of my role and so I didn’t seek help for a long time.”

Vasquez eventually did seek help, and also found comfort in the words of the late US civil rights leader and congressman Elijah Cummings: that our pain becomes our passion, and our passion becomes our purpose.

This was a dark time for me, but this pain turned into a passion to continue working with vulnerable women and families, and the purpose to make the lives of women and families better, even if it is in my small corner of the earth.
Martha Vasquez

“I feel this purpose strongly and always aim to live it in my personal and professional life.”

The mother-of-three aims to use her education to increase her own level of influence within the healthcare and social assistance sector.

“Over the course of my career I’ve seen shifts in healthcare and nursing, to the point that public hospitals really run with a business focus now. I need to understand those changing dynamics if I’m to contribute in a meaningful way,” Vasquez said.

“It’s important for women to have a voice in every area, and it’s great for me to have an impact at this level to help improve the lives of families, women and children.”

The University of Sydney Business School is committed to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME).

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