Under the microscope: Women building bonds in Antarctica

Howeward Bound: 80 women are visiting Antarctica to help build the profile of women in science.
Howeward Bound: 80 women are visiting Antarctica to help build the profile of women in science.

While you’re reading this, I’m quite a long way from home.

I’ve missed the usual New Year’s celebrations, and I’ve ditched the Aussie summer, packed for a cooler climate and headed south… all the way south, to Antarctica.

But I’m not alone.

In fact, here are 79 other women travelling with me.

And every one of them is a scientist.

Eighty scientists in Antarctica might not seem like that much of a big deal – after all, there are a few dozen research stations here, all stocked with scientists.

What makes us different is that we’re not here to carry out scientific research.

In fact, most of us, like myself, are not Antarctic scientists at all.

We come from all areas of science, from science teachers, to climate scientists, to geologists and engineers, to medical doctors and geneticists.

We also come from all areas of the world, with 26 different nationalities represented within the group.

So if we’re not here to “do” science, why have we come all the way to Antarctica?

We’re part of the latest cohort of a program called Homeward Bound, which is a leadership program for women in science. It aims to equip 1000 women, over the next 10 years, with the leadership and strategic skills to take on high level leadership and policy making positions, to help create positive change in our world.

Well, although our backgrounds are diverse, there’s something all these women have in common.

We’re all passionate about supporting and building the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM).

And that’s the real reason we are here. We’re part of the latest cohort of a program called Homeward Bound, which is a leadership program for women in science.

It aims to equip 1000 women, over the next 10 years, with the leadership and strategic skills to take on high level leadership and policy-making positions.

Women are underrepresented in leadership positions across all scientific fields.

Less than 20% of STEM graduates in Australia are women.

Women consistently receive fewer awards and less recognition of their contributions to science than men.

I could go on, and on, and on.

Homeward Bound is a program taking action to start to even out the gender imbalance we have in science. It aims to develop a strong network that will enhance women’s ability to impact policy and decision-making for a sustainable future.

When we return at the end of January there will be another 80 stronger, more confident, more resilient women in science ready to tackle some of the worlds greatest problems.

Dr Mary McMillan is a lecturer at UNE’s School of Science & Technology.