Skip to content

Women in STEM Spotlight - Dr Katherine Locock, CSIRO

If Australia is to be competitive on the global stage, we need to maximise the talent pool and to ensure that the diversity is there to help drive the innovation we need.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2017, we spoke to Dr Katherine Locock about what the theme, #BeBoldForChange means to her.

Dr Katherine Locock
Research Scientist, Manufacturing Business Unit

The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is #BeBoldForChange. What does this statement mean to you?

#BeBoldForChange is a call to action for everyone, no matter sex or seniority, to start doing the hard work of bringing about gender equality. Gone are the days where it was sufficient to simply instigate tokenistic measures to be able to tick the diversity box. If we are to see a truly diverse workforce we all need to be brave and try out revolutionary ideas to close the gender gap in pay, promotions and recognition.

What bold actions have you seen implemented to progress the role of women in STEM?

Women are currently hugely under-represented in STEM, making up only 16% of people with STEM qualifications in Australia. This is such an untapped resource for the sector! If Australia is to be competitive on the global stage, we need to maximise the talent pool and to ensure that the diversity is there to help drive the innovation we need.

The Male Champions of Change program is something that has really gone outside the box in trying to progress the role of women in STEM. Too often it falls on the shoulders of women to drive diversity in the workplace, often compounding on their normal workload to make it that much harder to progress up the ladder. This completely ignores the other half of the equation – men! Men in senior positions so often have the power and influence to be able to bring about change in their workplace. This program seeks the commitment of prominent men in both the public and private sector to drive this change.

We are also seeing more and more STEM professionals be bold and refuse attendance at conferences and other events that do not show sufficient diversity in their plenary and invited speaker line-up. Too long have we seen conference organisers complain that it was ‘too hard’ to find sufficient women to present. People are now showing their disapproval by voting with their feet. Conference organisers will now have to go that extra yard if they want a good turnout at events.

What advice would you have for girls or women considering a career in STEM?

It can sometimes be hard to work out exactly what a career in STEM looks like - mostly because of how diverse they can be! A STEM professional could be working in a lab every day, travelling to far flung areas of the globe for field studies or working on a mine site with huge excavation equipment. The best way to work out which one is going to suit you is to talk to as many people as you can! Even better is to organise visits to different workplaces to see the reality of what they do day to day. That way you’ll be able to see what best drives your passion for STEM.

My advice for those already in the field is that a mentor is one of the most powerful things you can have throughout your career to bridge the gender gap. They should be someone that you feel comfortable talking to about your aspirations and concerns. They should also encourage you to take on new opportunities, act as a sponsor for you in the field, tap you on the shoulder for promotions and awards and most importantly, be someone that will challenge you to be the best you can be.



Dr Katherine Locock is a Research Scientist in the Manufacturing Business Unit of the CSIRO in Melbourne, Australia. Her research focuses on the development of biologically active polymers, based on CSIRO’s patented RAFT technology.

Prior to the CSIRO, Katherine held a position as an Associate Lecturer in Pharmacology at the University of Sydney, where she focused on rational drug design to develop GABA analogues as potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and mood disorders.

After 3 years in academia, Katherine took up a position as an OCE Postdoctoral Fellow in the Material Sciences and Engineering Division of the CSIRO in Melbourne. She was appointed as a research scientist in CSIRO Manufacturing in 2015, also taking on a short-term placement in 2016 as an advisor to Senator Kim Carr, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. Katherine also holds a position as a RACI Board member for 2016-2018 and sits on the RACI Inclusion and Diversity Committee.

Back to top