Reserve Bank board member and head of Chief Executive Women, Kathryn Fagg, last night received the major award at the UNSW Women in Engineering Awards.
The Ada Lovelace Medal for an Outstanding Woman Engineer is awarded to a woman with a minimum of 15 years of increasingly important professional engineering experience.
Fagg grew up in Gladstone in central Queensland and studied chemical engineering at the University of Queensland. She began her career in the petroleum industry with ExxonMobil before moving into consulting with McKinsey and Company and banking with ANZ. She returned to the industrial sector with leadership roles at BlueScope Steel and Linfox.
"Kathryn is a highly regarded and extraordinarily successful professional and I'm sure you'll all agree an incredible role model," said UNSW Dean of Engineering, Professor Mark Hoffman.
"An engineer by training, Kathryn has built a substantial and impressive career in the male dominated worlds of petroleum engineering, steel-making, logistics and banking."
Kathryn Fagg said she was particularly pleased the Medal recognised Ada Lovelace.
"Through her collaboration with Charles Babbage, Ada was to be recognised as the person who wrote the first computer algorithm," she said.
"What a role model she was and continues to be. She was brave. She was courageous. And she was willing to go where no-one has gone before."
She added it was thrilling to hear why girls choose to study engineering.
"Almost inevitably it's about wanting to solve problems but make the world a better place. And the joy for me and I know for other women who pursued engineering careers is that having an engineering undergraduate degree has enabled us to do that," she said.
Two other other awards were also announced. The Maria Skyllas-Kazacos Young Professional Award for Outstanding Achievement was presented to Narelle Underwood, the NSW Surveyor-General. She is the first woman appointed to that role in any Australian state.
The Judy Raper Award for Leadership in Engineering went to Professor Cordelia Selomulya, from the Monash University Biotechnology, Food and Pharmaceutical Engineering Group. Selomulya has designed a more efficient DNA vaccine delivery system for malaria using magnetic nanoparticles, and revealed the role of nanoparticle adjuvants for ovarian cancer vaccines.
[Award winners (from left): Prof Cordelia Selomulya, Narelle Underwood and Kathryn Fagg. Photo: UNSW]