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UNSW Sydney cancer researcher Dr Caroline Ford has won the Emerging Leader in Science, Medicine and Health Award at the sixth annual Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards.

In a ceremony last week, Dr Ford was recognised for her initiative and commitment to making a difference for women of diverse backgrounds in the fields of science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM).

In accepting the award, which aims to recognise, celebrate and profile emerging female leadership talent in seven categories, Dr Ford said it was especially meaningful to be recognised for her advocacy of gender equity outside her role as a cancer researcher.

“It was nice to receive recognition and to see what I was doing was valued by those knowledgeable in this space,” Dr Ford said. 

 “It was exciting to meet with like-minded people doing really interesting and powerful work across all different sectors and discuss similar ideas. Some of the judges are incredible champions of diversity across Australia.”

The judges included company director and author of the book Women Kind, Dr Kirstin Ferguson, and Walkley Award winning journalist Catherine Fox. The judges praised Dr Ford’s inclusive leadership and her initiative in disrupting and challenging embedded ways of thinking in her industry.

Dr Ford is based at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre and leads the Gynaecological Cancer Research Group at UNSW Sydney. Her research focuses on an early detection test for ovarian cancer, as well as novel drug targets in ovarian and endometrial cancer.


Dr Caroline Ford (UNSW Medicine), third from left, with UNSW colleagues, from left, Dr Natalie Galea (UNSW Built Environment), Professor Bill Ledger (UNSW Medicine), Professor Laura Poole Warren (Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research Training)), Megan Macarthur (UNSW Alumni), Dr Lisa Williams (UNSW Science).

Dr Ford has a long track record in supporting initiatives that promote diversity in STEMM. She is on the Faculty of Medicine's Equity, Diversity and Inclusion board and is also a member of the SAGE Athena SWAN Committee, an initiative to improve gender equity in STEMM in the Australian higher education and research sector.

This year Dr Ford created the STEMMinist Book Club, which merges the traditional book club format with a focus on science, medicine and technology texts and discussion through a feminist lens. The online community has grown to almost 3000 members across 30 countries, with meetings occurring in 11 cities worldwide including Sydney, New York, Dublin and Istanbul.

“The book club is a forum and a place for women and men interested in gender equity in STEMM fields to discuss some of the issues and the challenges, but more importantly to share solutions that are already shown to be effective in other parts of the world,” Dr Ford said.

The awards ceremony also included a panel discussion featuring Senator Kristina Keneally,  journalist Sandra Sully, reconstructive plastic surgeon Dr Neela Janakiramanan, and former Australian cricket captain Alex Blackwell.

Also nominated from UNSW Sydney, in the category of Emerging Leader in the Public Sector, was Research Director at the Centre for Social Impact, Associate Professor Gemma Carey.