19 November 2019
Homeward Bound adventurers, from left, Dr Anna Vinkhuyzen, Bianca Das, Dr Emma Kennedy and Hana Starobova.
Homeward Bound adventurers, from left, Dr Anna Vinkhuyzen, Bianca Das, Dr Emma Kennedy and Hana Starobova.

Over the next three weeks, UQ's Dr Emma Kennedy will keep us up-to-date on her Homeward Bound voyage to the Antarctic (and back).

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Tuesday, 19 November

For the past 12 months, participants hailing from all corners of the globe have undergone an intensive leadership training program for women with a background in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine), as they prepare for the fourth iteration of the Homeward Bound voyage. This program, seeks to convene and equip a diverse coalition of leaders to increase the visibility of women in both academia and industry.

Towards the end of November, the program will culminate with 100 women travelling to Ushuaia, Argentina where they will take their place, embarking on a life-changing voyage to one of the most ecologically pristine and harshest environments in the world - Antarctica.

The statistics are dire. STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering Medicine and Maths) fields are advancing very quickly, but women hold only 18% of leadership roles. Women consistently undersell themselves (which we see year-on-year in Homeward Bound) and are less likely to put themselves forward for leadership. Yet, when they do, they excel. This lack of women holding leadership positions in STEMM fields has been described “more like an endless loop than a glass ceiling”

Essentially, late last year, I was handpicked as one of 100 women scientists worldwide to participate in this once-in-lifetime year-long professional development scheme that culminates in a three-week expedition to Antarctica.

The program, Homeward Bound, aims to heighten the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape our planet.

Homeward Bound takes place over the course of a year, supporting women in science to significantly improve their clarity, confidence, shared vision and strategic capability. It helps women to take up leadership roles globally and to proactively contribute to a sustainable world both individually and collectively. Within a decade, Homeward Bound hope to equip a 1000-strong global collaboration of women with STEMM backgrounds to lead, influence and contribute to policy and decision-making as it informs the future of our planet: we’re part of the 4th cohort.

Throughout the year the 100 of us have had a chance to get to know some of the other women in our cohort (there are four others based in Brisbane – three on campus, two at CSIRO and one in IMB) and we’ve been getting some coaching in the lead up to the state-of-the-art leadership training we’ll receive on the expedition.

The idea is become part of and co-create a deeply trusting, highly skilled, global network of women in science supporting women in leadership anywhere they see is appropriate (to their career and to their contribution) – with the overarching goal of improving outcomes particularly in the environmental space.

The program enables this through a focus on building trust and safety, sense of self, the ability to give and receive feedback, the skills that underpin peer coaching, increasing women’s strategic visibility and understanding of/connection to science and collaboration (including science communication skills). 

We’re off in two days!

We’ll be departing to the Antarctic Peninsula on 22 November – 100 women making it the largest ever all-female expedition to Antarctica! Some of the coaches we have on board are amazing global leaders: including Antarctic scientist Dr Justine Shaw, Musimbi Kanyoro, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women and program founder and visionary leadership expert Fabian Dattner, one of NAB 2016’s 100 Women of Influence.

I am completely excited and terrified – not just about the hard work we’re expected to do on the boat (including a full scientific conference, intensive leadership training and even an art project!) – as a coral reef scientist used to tropical conditions not sure how I’m going to cope with the cold conditions (although of course I’m going to jump in for an Antarctic swim and a dive with penguins), and naturally I’ve convinced myself I’m going to slip on the ice, fall in and get eaten by a leopard seal!

We had to fundraise to participate in the trip so I am particularly grateful for all the support I got through UQ, especially from the Global Change Institute, SAGE Athena SWAN Program and Faculty of Science who all supported me financially, and my new lab in SEES who have been supportive too.

As these women travel to Argentina and embark upon their voyage, Homeward Bound’s campaign, #takeyourplace will seek to elevate their voices and stories of their leadership journeys as they take their place as advocates, leaders and influencers.

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