27 year old Marita Cheng is the founder of Robogals, a non-profit that aims to empower women in engineering and technology. What started out as a university association for Marita and her classmates to engage primary school girls with STEM, grew into 55,000 members and 2,000 volunteers across 4 countries.
This is an enormous feat, considering STEM is a traditionally male-dominated field. With this in mind, the ambitious engineer wanted to do more than just tell them; she wanted to break through the glass ceiling herself.
“I don’t want to just tell girls they can do anything with engineering, I want to show them and so I really wanted to create my own robotics company.”
So Marita created 2Mar Robotics. It wasn't a matter of simply building robots to do chores for the average household. The company had a higher calling.
She says, “On day one, I thought who needs what I do the most? And I thought people with disabilities. And so I reached out to spinal cord injury associations.”
Within five weeks of starting her company, Marita raised her first $20,000. Along with her successes, she does admit there are challenges that come when starting a small business, but it’s a venture that keeps her motivated.
“It takes time for companies to flourish, especially if you’re starting from nothing.”
“Entrepreneurship and running a small business is a really good way to [be motivated and challenged] because you have to know a bit about everything and you have to keep developing yourself and learning. You have to learn interpersonal skills as well in order to work with people, work with a team and scale.”
Building an eclectic set of skills has always been a part of Marita’s narrative, which was inspired by her mother.
“I guess I was always keen to explore and do lots of things. When I was growing up, my mum wanted me to learn a lot of things and explore, and she said, ‘you don’t have to be the best, I just want you to see what’s out there and learn’.”
Growing up with a single mother and brother in housing commission in Cairns, she never took these opportunities for granted. Graduating at the top of her grade, and pursuing worthy extracurricular activities has seen Marita rise as a role model for women everywhere. In 2012, she was named Young Australian of the Year for her work in Robogals and 2Mar Robotics.
“It’s so much fun to do what I do. It’s an adventure. I get to travel, I get to meet lots of interesting people, I get to learn about their life, I get to ask how I can make a difference.”
“It’s really rewarding that I can help not just one person, but with technology, we can help millions of people around the world.”