Eighty female scientists from across the world (including 35 Australians) will embark on an expedition to Antarctica this month, to learn about the effects of climate change and to promote the role of women in global sustainability. The team will be at sea for a total of 3 weeks, setting sail from Ushuaia in Argentina early this week.
The trip is part of the Homeward Bound program, A 12-month intensive leadership initiative delivered by an expert faculty including leading scientists. Homeward Bound comprises lectures, exercises, personal coaching and open discussions aimed at promoting and supporting future female leaders in science.
In its’ third year, the program was the brainchild of leadership activist, Fabian Dattner and former Women’s Agenda Leadership Award finalist, Jess Melbourne-Thomas--Project Leader with the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre.
Together, they gained the support and backing of several major scientific bodies and prominent women in the industry, to launch successfully. The inaugural program went ahead with 76 women from around the world including, astronomers, engineers, physicists, science communicators, Antarctic and Arctic specialists, doctors and social scientists. Now, the program has evolved even further to include women from even more diverse scientific backgrounds across 28 countries globally.
The overarching vision of Homeward Bound is direct: “To equip a 1000-strong global collaboration of women with a science background to lead, influence and contribute to policy and decision making as it informs the future of our planet within 10 years.” The site reads.
And given the status quo, it’s a necessary objective to have.
Women in science are still severely underrepresented in industry leadership positions. According to a study conducted across 14 countries, the likelihood of female students graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in a science-related field is 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, compared to male students, 37%, 18% and 6%.
Although slow progress is occurring, initiatives like Homeward Bound are crucial in speeding up momentum.
27-year-old Brisbane scientist Lee Constable, a member of the 2018 team, described the program to the Brisbane Times as “the most amazing idea ever”. It’s “about empowering women in science and having them at the forefront of decision-making and climate change discussions,” she said.
And with many studies pointing to the fact that women and men view the threat of climate change differently, there’s no denying that strong global decision-making requires an equal measure of female voices.