Celebrating executive women in business and science

Awards and Achievements

Influential women from across the business and science sectors gathered at the Heart Research Institute to celebrate the contributions of women to their fields, and shine a light on the barriers still faced by women.

The event for International Women's Day was hosted by ABC Science reporter, Sophie Scott, and included an impressive panel made up of:
  • Dr Cathy Foley, world-class physicist, Deputy Director and Science Director of CSIRO Manufacturing.
  • Emeritus Professor Carolyn Geczy, School of Medical Sciences, UNSW.
  • Professor Caroline Homer, Director of the Centre for Midwifery, Child and Family Health, UTS.
  • Ms Giselle Collins, non-Executive Director for a portfolio of Boards.


Discussion ranged from the challenges facing women in science and how to change workplace culture, to the benefits of establishing a public profile and practical advice on mentoring and having an up-to-date CV.

What do our panellists see as the biggest challenge they've faced in their careers?

Dr Cathy Foley
"For me, it's been two-fold. The first one is just going through that period of time when I had young kids. Then the second one was actually dealing with unconscious bias...From the moment you are born your gender defines you and this is something that just so deeply ingrained. "

Emeritus Professor Carolyn Geczy
From my perspective I think  having children is one of the most difficult challenges and getting through that time. The thing that's changed a lot now is that when I had my two children we had six weeks maternity leave, not six months, so I went back to work when my children were six weeks old and I had to have long day care."

Professor Caroline Homer
"I guess for me it's been about believing in myself that I could do things. When I think about my first job in science, I went to an MRI, not this one, another one, applied for a job. There were three men on the panel, I was probably late 20s.The first question they asked me was when I was going to have a baby. I was pretty horrified by that even then. After that I thought, I'm never going to be in a position where that's allowed to be asked again as a discriminatory factor."

Giselle Collins
"I'd like to throw us a point out that we've come a long way. We do need to recognise that in 2009, 8 per cent 0f the top ASX 200 boards had women presidents on them. That's now 22 per cent. We are striding ahead and sometimes we need to just to pause for a minute and say, 'Well, where have we come from'.”

Listen to this inspiring panel discussion


The Twitter community joined the discussion too


Career re-start grant supports female researcher

The breakfast event, held on Monday 21 March 2016, also celebrated the announcement of Dr Christina Bursill as the recipient of the HRI’s inaugural Career Re-Start Grant. The $60,000 grant, made possible by funding from NAB, is open to researchers who are pregnant, on maternity leave, or have returned in the last two years to the HRI.

Dr Bursill shared her experiences of returning to work after giving birth to her baby boy, Henry: “The reality of balancing motherhood and medical research is certainly challenging.This is why it's very important to support this concept of a Career Re-Start Grant, and also to have, perhaps, have it extended."

"We need to support and retain our excellent female scientists who make very important contributions to medical research."

“I'm very grateful to receive this inaugural Career Re-Start Grant which has been joint-funded by NAB and the Heart Research Institute.”


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