Two UNSW Sydney academics have been named finalists in this year’s Australian Financial Review/Qantas 100 Women of Influence Awards for their contributions to public policy and innovation.

The awards, now in their sixth year, encompass 10 categories with the aim of identifying a diverse group of women championing change in business and society. The 2018 UNSW finalists are Professor Megan Davis, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous), and Professor Emma Johnston, Dean of the Faculty of Science.

This year's list was chosen from a record 850 entries, a large increase on the 370 received in 2016, the last time the awards were held. Professor Davis was included in the top 100 in 2016, while Professor Johnston received an Emerging Leader Award in the 2016 AFR Higher Education Awards.

Professor Davis, who is the first Aboriginal Australian elected to a United Nations body, has been recognised for her work in public policy. Professor Davis served as Australia’s representative on the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples. She was director of the Indigenous Centre at UNSW from 2007 to 2017 and was named UNSW’s first Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) in 2017. Professor Davis played a vital role in the process that culminated in the historic Uluru Statement from the Heart.

A world-leading marine biologist. Professor Johnston has been recognised in the innovation category for her research into the ecology of human impacts in marine systems. She is president of Science and Technology Australia, leading Australia’s peak science professional body in creating and publicising the nation’s science priorities. She is a prominent advocate for increasing the participation of women in research and was named an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2018.

This year, entrants were asked to demonstrate the competencies of self-leadership including courage, resilience and self-development, through challenges and hardships. The 100 Women of Influence were selected by a panel of judges that included two previous winners, Ann Sherry, executive chair of cruise company Carnival Australia, and Moya Dodd, lawyer and soccer official. Executive search firm Korn Ferry assisted with the selection.

The winners of each of the 10 categories and the overall winner will be announced at a gala dinner in Sydney on October 17. The full list is available at The Australian Financial Review.