Christine Mudavanhu is the founder and lead consultant at Utano Global, a one-stop shop for all your diversity, equity, and inclusion management consulting requirements. She founded Utano Global because she truly believes that our difference is always the advantage we bring to organisations. Christine is founding partner for Migrant Women in Business, a social enterprise dedicated to the advancement of migrant female small business owners. Christine is an award recipient from Women in Technology, in the Lifting Communities category.
Leaving Zimbabwe and starting a new chapter of my life in Australia was a journey filled with unexpected twists and turns. It all began in 2000. At the time I was married and we had visas to come to Australia because my husband had been accepted to study at the University of Queensland. We decided to take a detour to New Zealand to visit friends and family. What was intended to be a six-month visit turned into a ten-year stay!
Leaving Zimbabwe wasn’t as much of a culture shock as you might think. As a former British Colony, there were similarities between Zimbabwe and New Zealand. I also found a sense of connection in the Maori culture, which echoed aspects of my own background.
However, the real challenge I faced was the distance from home. When my father passed away, I experienced the pain of not being able to reach Zimbabwe quickly. There was just no faster way to get me there than fifteen or sixteen hours, which is not something you want to do when you’re grieving.
After ten years in New Zealand my life was at a crossroads so I just got on a plane and came to Australia. While I had family in Melbourne, I chose to settle in Brisbane. I was looking for sunshine after years of dealing with the Wellington weather. Brisbane welcomed me with open arms and it wasn’t long before this city felt like home. I realised I had found the sense of identity and belonging I’d been searching for.
My passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) was born out of a desire to connect with people. I actively sought out people from different circles, enjoying the opportunity to learn about backgrounds different from my own.
My journey into the world of DE&I was marked by a series of events and realisations, rather than a single defining moment. I became increasingly aware of the advantages that enabled me to navigate situations and environments with ease. An eye-opening moment occurred when a close friend remarked, “You’re very comfortable around white people.” Initially, I didn’t understand the statement, but upon reflection, I realised it was about my ability to be authentic and comfortable in various contexts.
Growing up in a predominantly white farming region, attending schools where I was in the minority, taught me to be at ease in diverse settings. My father instilled in me the belief that I could belong anywhere I chose, and my upbringing promoted gender equality within the household.
My professional journey in Australia brought to light the glaring absence of individuals who resembled me in the workplace, despite the presence of many women. In collaboration with the Queensland Government, I launched a mentoring program at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) for African students, called “How to Land a Job in the Public Sector.”
My work in the DE&I space expanded, initially through pro bono collaborations with mentoring programs at QUT, UQ, and Griffith universities. I opened my networks to students to help them build crucial connections. My focus shifted toward economic empowerment, driven by the belief that altering one’s earning power is the key to transforming one’s life. While our initial target was African students, the program’s success led us to open the program more widely.
Collaborating with various groups, including the African Professionals of Australia Association, multilingual community services, and the Islamic Women of Australia Association, I worked on programs aimed at teaching migrant women essential small business skills. My work within the Queensland public sector exposed me to the opportunity cost of migrants not working in their professions, further motivating me to advocate for more representation in the workplace.
The program continued to grow and led to the founding of Migrant Women in Business, a national business network for migrant and refugee female small business owners. Migrant women possess untapped potential and a wealth of ideas, waiting for doors to be opened. By providing exposure to commercial opportunities, training, guidance and support, I have the privilege of supporting some amazing women to start and grow their own business and become self-employed.
Through my experiences, I’ve learned never to underestimate anyone. You never truly know another person’s story. My work in domestic and family violence policy underscored the challenges women face when confronting various barriers. While economics may not solve all problems, financial autonomy offers choice. The impact of money on education, health, and overall quality of life cannot be overstated. Even in a developed country like Australia, an economic divide affects the opportunities people can provide for their families.
I’ve witnessed the transformative power of changing one’s economic circumstances repeatedly. It’s a privilege to be trusted by my community. People come to me with dreams, and I have the honour of listening, caring, and walking alongside them on their journey. Together, we support one another in our growth.
My experiences working with leaders and managers at the highest levels of corporate organisations had led to the development of “Sisters in Colour”, a podcast which highlights the remarkable journeys of women of colour in leadership roles. This passion project provides a platform where we can truly start to change the face of leadership by celebrating the incredible women of colour who break barriers in leadership positions, and who are at the centre of where decisions impacting the trajectory of future generations are being made.
Sisters in Colour serves as a platform where young women can listen to thought leaders from various fields and backgrounds, inspiring them to reach for their own goals. It continues to evolve and grow, fuelling my belief that by empowering diverse voices, we can create a more inclusive and equitable world.
My journey as a migrant in Australia has taught me the power of embracing diversity and inclusion. It’s a journey marked by personal growth, a commitment to empower others, and a deep sense of belonging in my chosen community. I hope my story inspires fellow skilled migrants to explore their unique strengths, foster inclusion, and make a positive impact in their new homeland. Together, we can build a brighter and more diverse future for all.
Where to find Christine
Migrant Women in Business website: mwib.com.au