Dr Cathy Foley
Dr Cathy Foley was the winner of the Premier's Award for Woman of the Year at the 2013 NSW Women of the Year Awards.
Dr Cathy Foley is one Australia’s foremost scientists, leading the way for women in science and inspiring a generation of young girls to follow in her footsteps. Cathy is one of a handful of women to hold a very senior position in science. As Chief of the CSIRO’s Materials Science and Engineering division, she is responsible for around 900 people and a budget of more than $60 million.
For the last 28 years, Cathy has been actively promoting the role of women in physics and science. Her determination to see women excel in the field has seen her form numerous groups including the AIP Women in Physics Group, Women in Superconductivity and Women in Science Enquiry Network. She has been the keynote speaker at the Women in Science and Engineering Symposium held at Parliament House in Canberra, she was President of the Australian Institute of Physics and Science and Technology Australia representing over 68,000 researchers, and she has served on several boards and advisory groups, including the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council.
It is impossible to sum up Cathy’s scientific achievements as they quite simply cannot be confined to one page. Her system for mineral exploration, LANDTEM, contributed to the detection of more than $6 billion worth of mines worldwide. She has boldly pursued groundbreaking research and ideas in all areas of science, winning not only numerous accolades but also the respect and admiration of her peers.
All of this from a woman who overheard a teacher in high school describe her as not being very good at maths. Dr Cathy Foley has proven that particular teacher wrong many times over. Her enthusiasm, professionalism, resourcefulness and pragmatism have made her an ideal role model for young women around Australia, especially in science where there are still relatively few women at the highest levels.
This powerhouse of science has not only been a trailblazer for women in her field, she also worked to ensure that there was enough childcare available in her community. She lobbied for government grants in order to build the Bradfield Park Child Care Centre in 1988. She also established after-school care at Beaumont Road Public School. She was an active member of Parents and Citizens Associations and School Councils. For this work, in 2006 she was recognised as the NSW Public School Parent of the Year.
Her work with young people and her community does not end at school. She has also well and truly earned her merit badge as a scout leader. Cathy started out as secretary of the parent committee for the North St Ives Scout group but since 2001 she has been a Joey Scout leader. More than 300 children have been in her group over the years and in 2007 she was honoured for her work with the scouts.
"Being a physicist has been rewarding, not only because it has enabled me to participate in all aspects of science research and its commercialisation and to witness the huge impact this has had on our society, but it has also allowed me to balance my work life with a happy family life and strong community involvement. It is becoming increasingly clear that the role of the workplace in creating the right environment for women is critical if we are to embrace the full human potential."
Cathy has upended the science stereotype to become one of the most recognisable faces of science in Australia, paving the way for future generations of women in the field. She is proof positive that with hard work and resolve, anything is possible.