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Publication Date: 
April 2019
Case study from: Advancing Women in STEM

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) recently appointed Dr Cathy Foley to the position of Chief Scientist. This unique role will help champion science, its impact and contribution to the world, as well as the people behind the science.

Dr Foley joined the CSIRO Division of Applied Physics in 1985 as a National Research Fellow. ‘My early aptitude for science was combined with a compassion for people and a sense of wanting to see more fairness in the world. So CSIRO was the perfect vehicle for me to realise this vision,’ says Dr Foley. ‘At CSIRO, the work we do has an enormous impact and makes a difference to everyone every day. If you ask the people I work with, they all say that what they love about working at CSIRO is that “we do things that actually change the world”.’

When asked about the importance of having women in leadership positions in science, Dr Foley noted ‘you can’t be what you can’t see!’

‘Gender bias and stereotypes begin at an early age – where young girls are growing up with a lack of overall female scientists in the public eye. This kind of imbalance sends a clear signal to girls at a young age that they don’t fit the classic mould of a scientist – in turn girls lose confidence in their STEM abilities at a young age. When it comes time for young women to choose a discipline at university, it’s no surprise they’re demotivated to choose a STEM career,’ says Dr Foley.

‘If we want to inspire more women to get into STEM and leadership roles, then we must increase the number of visible role models in the public sphere’, says Dr Foley. ‘As Chief Scientist, my priority is putting science, and people in science in the spotlight – especially women. I want to show that we can solve the big challenges for the nation when we use the full human potential’.

‘Australia needs to step up its game with getting more women into the STEM workforce – and as Australia’s national science agency, we must to play our part,’ says Dr Foley. ‘We know that diverse teams drive innovative thinking. We also know that visible diversity matters. If we want to realise our vision for future science impact it’s critical that we harness the talents of women into the future. It’s also the right thing to do!’

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