This International Day of Women and Girls in Science we celebrate the role of women and girls in science, not only as beneficiaries, but also as agents of change. We’re celebrating this special day by profiling women who have pursued careers in science to inspire Victoria’s future female scientists.

We’re excited to introduce Caroline Martino, who is Manager of Water Sciences at Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA). Caroline spoke to us about her career evolution with EPA over the last twelve years and her experience as a woman in STEM.

Q&A with Caroline Martino, Environment Protection Authority Victoria

What inspired your career in science and how did you land in your specific field?

Growing up on the peninsula of Port Phillip Bay gave me a passion for marine life at an early age. I have always had a connection with the environment, and I wasn’t too bad at science, so putting those two things together as a career option seemed a natural thing to do. My Dad was also my number one supporter and encouraged me to explore my options in science.

Growing up on the peninsula of Port Phillip Bay gave me a passion for marine life at an early age. I have always had a connection with the environment. If you approach life with passion, determination, and confidence you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

I began my career with a degree in chemistry and aquatic science. This gave me the opportunity to try out a range of roles in Australia and overseas including as an industrial chemist, process development chemist, and environmental chemist. My journey finally led me to EPA and back into the water sciences. EPA is Victoria’s environmental regulator, working to prevent and reduce the harmful effects of pollution and waste on Victorians and their environment.

I lead a team of scientists and engineers in the Water Sciences Unit in EPA’s Science Division.  We assess the impacts of activities on the environment, the adequacy of process controls in preventing pollution, we undertake water monitoring, we carry out research in areas such as microplastics, and we run recreational water quality programs such as Beach Report and Yarra Watch. The work is diverse, and I really enjoy it. I’ve been at EPA for almost twelve years now.

How has EPA supported your career in science?

EPA really encourages personal and professional development, and they support mentoring programs and communities of practice across a range of technical areas so you can continue to learn and grow.  I am supported by the people around me and the collaboration and sharing of information, wanting to see each other succeed and grow makes a wonderful workplace.

What are gender stereotypes for women in science?

I think from an early age when taking science subjects at school, there were always more boys than girls in my classes. Boys were perceived to be better at maths and science than girls. This stereotype has slowly shifted over time, and I have worked with, and continue to work with, some incredibly intelligent and accomplished scientists of various genders.

What obstacles have you faced as a female in a STEM career?

I was given an incredible opportunity as a process development chemist at an international mining company that was, let's face it, a predominantly male workforce. I had the support of my technical peers, however found that I had to work extra hard to gain the confidence of many of the other workers. I made quick work of their biases and excelled professionally. The job enabled me to work in the UK and Canada over a seven-year period and I got to squeeze in my other passion - travel.

How do you address the gender gap in your specific area of science?

Offering flexible work arrangements like part time, job share, and flexible work is important so that work is more accessible for those juggling both a career and home life.

What have you done in your career that you are most proud of?

I am really proud that at EPA I can make a difference. Using science and evidence to inform decisions and drive actions that ensure the protection of people, and the environment is so fulfilling. I’m also really proud of the journey I have taken to get where I am today. I never imagined when I started out, with little experience or confidence, that I would end up in a senior leadership role in science.

What piece of advice would you give to the next generation of women and girls considering a career in science?

You don’t have to be at the top of your class to succeed. I certainly wasn’t! But I was persistent, and I worked hard! If you approach life with passion, determination, and confidence you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve. Follow your heart, be curious, be confident, and never underestimate yourself.

Discover more 

You can discover more stories about women who have pursued careers in science to make a real difference.

We invite you to read and share the stories, and celebrate women in science to inspire our future female scientists pursue their passion and make waves across industries. 
Dr Gillian Sparkes AM Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability

These stories were selected for the positive impacts made to improve water in Victoria and beyond, and thus to our environment and the health and wellbeing of the Victorian community.

Category: Water, Community, Culture
Tags: Water, STEM, Science