Australia’s three leading science agencies now headed by women after CSIRO appointment

Karyn Starmer 18 October 2021 1
Kathryn Fagg

CSIRO Chair Kathryn Fagg commenced her professional career as a petroleum engineer following a chemical engineering degree. Photo: CSIRO.

The appointment of company director and chemical engineer Kathryn Fagg as the new chair of the national science agency CSIRO means Australia’s three leading science agencies are now headed by women.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) is led by Penny Wensley and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) is chaired by Dr Annabelle Bennett.

Ms Fagg replaces the departing chair, David Thodey. She has been appointed for five years following the end of Mr Thodey’s term on 14 October 2021.

Ms Fagg has worked in senior executive roles across a range of industries in Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

She was a member of the Reserve Bank of Australia board from 2013 to 2018 and is currently chair of the Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA).

Current board member David Knox will take over Ms Fagg’s role as deputy for a four-year term.

Ian Macfarlane has been appointed to the board to commence a three-year term. Mr Macfarlane is a former Minister for Industry and Science.


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Announcing the appointments on Friday (15 October), Science and Technology Minister Melissa Price thanked Mr Thodey for his leadership, and said Ms Fagg was well-credentialed to assume the role of chair.

“Kathryn Fagg brings stability and maintains a strong direction for the CSIRO as the agency continues to play a pivotal role in our COVID-19 recovery and as we embrace science and technology to help chart our future prosperity,” Minister Price said.

“As a passionate advocate for gender equity, Ms Fagg is a women-in-STEM champion and a mentor for young women seeking to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

“Like me, the new chair and the other board members are committed to ensuring we use science – and the incredible work of our scientists – to help improve the lives of all Australians.

“I would like to thank David Thodey for his remarkable service and his personal and professional passion for embracing science to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.”

In the not-for-profit sector, Ms Fagg is inaugural chair of Watertrust Australia Limited and a board member of the Grattan Institute, The Myer Foundation, and the Champions of Change Coalition. She is a former president of Chief Executive Women (CEW), a former chair of Parks Victoria and the Melbourne Recital Centre.

Ms Fagg has held senior executive roles in logistics, manufacturing, resources, banking and professional services, including at Linfox, BlueScope Steel and the ANZ Banking Group.

She moved into executive roles after a period as a management consultant with McKinsey after starting her professional career as a petroleum engineer following a chemical engineering degree.


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One Response to Australia’s three leading science agencies now headed by women after CSIRO appointment
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jessie jessie 3:15 pm 20 Oct 21

Australia’s three leading science agencies are now headed by women. Is this what we call diversity ?

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