Every month I profile a new incredible woman, each from a different walk of life. Different professions, causes, backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, and anything/everything else!
So without further delay, let me introduce the wonderful Marlene Leung…
Marlene Leung is a clinical research coordinator for the University of Toronto’s Centre for Mother, Infant, and Child Research specializing in international research related to maternal/fetal medicine. Her job has taken her to many amazing places and allowed her to work with other researchers committed to maternal and child health from all over the world. When not working, she is also a member of the Parkdale Street Writers, a group that explores trying different kinds of writing, through a series of hands-on workshops led by local authors and artists.
What drives you to do what you do?
I am driven by knowing that everything I do at work, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is related somehow to a bigger cause; improving maternal and child health. I also want to take pride in my work and stand behind everything I put my name on.
How does being a woman empower / challenge you?
Being a woman is empowering because I feel that there is a whole other side to myself that I am able to express and develop. The ability to be a sensitive, loving, caring and empathetic individual, while not exclusive to women, is something that women are encouraged to develop from an early age. Rather than see this as an impediment to my life, I am delighted that I get to nurture this side of myself openly and freely. I feel the same way about having children. I feel blessed that I get to experience this amazing phenomenon and look forward to the adventure. Imagine never being able to know what being pregnant or giving birth feels like? Maybe I’m crazy but I think of it as an opportunity of a lifetime!
Being a woman also has its challenges. I find that women are judged first and foremost on their appearance. Even if a woman is brilliant, if she is attractive as well that is the first thing people will comment on. I think back to my teenage years and how concerned I was with my looks and my clothes. I wonder how different my life would be if I had not thought about these things so much.
Another challenge I encountered this past year was restrictions on traveling. In a few countries I visited, I was told that I and my female friends were not to go to certain places for our safety. It hit me that by virtue of being a woman, we have restrictions on our mobility that men just do not have to face. For someone like me who loves traveling, this was quite a devastating realization.
What advice would you give to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?
Rather than advice for someone who wants to follow in my footsteps, I will give some general advice that I wish someone had given me.
Don’t limit your imagination when you’re creating a life for yourself. You should always go for your dream first. When you fail at that, then you can go to what is safe and secure. You don’t want to look back and wish you had had the courage to try something in your youth. You only have this life to do what you want!
What is one person, place, or thing every young woman should know about?
Someone you love very deeply may come around and hurt you very badly. It’s not uncommon or something to be ashamed of. This isn’t something you have to carry around like a dirty secret. I know this won’t stop someone’s heartache, but maybe it can help a little.
What is the most important thing we can do in order to change the world?
Love each other and love the planet. (Sorry that’s two things).
You can find out more about the University of Toronto’s Centre for Mother, Infant, and Child Research at www.utoronto.ca/miru/index.html.
If you would like to find out more about the Parkdale Street Writers or are interested in becoming a member, 16-25 year olds can join the group anytime. Visit their website at www.parkdalewriters.ca.