World’s largest initiative to elevate the visibility of women heading to Antarctica

February 13, 2023

Almost 180 women who are leaders from 25 countries will voyage on two ships to Antarctica in November to ensure the sustainability of the planet.

Image: Homeward Bound participants at Brown Bluff, Antarctica in 2019. This was the last voyage to Antarctica before the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to global travel. Credit: Will Rogan.

Almost 180 women who are leaders from 25 countries will voyage on two ships to Antarctica in November to ensure the sustainability of the planet. 

The women are part of the Homeward Bound global initiative, which was set up to elevate the visibility of women leading with a STEMM background (science, technology, engineering, medicine and maths). 

“Antarctica is the inspiration for collaboration for these leaders, a place to be inspired to work together,” Homeward Bound CEO Pamela Sutton-Legaud says.

“Seeing first-hand this dramatic landscape under attack from the climate cements the intention for the women to collaborate as leaders.”

The Homeward Bound participants have completed an 11-month virtual leadership program prior to the life-changing three-week voyage to Antarctica. 

The women who are voyaging come from a diverse range of STEMM fields and from every continent including Australia, Panama, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Germany. The group includes a shark behaviorist, a space engineer, and an emergency physician. 

Examples of projects the participants have previously collaborated on include: 

  • global review of gender inequality in STEMM; 
  • ANTARCTICA NOW, a group of alumnae who are lobbying for new Marine Protected Areas in Antarctica; 
  • scientific paper on the effects of the big increase of plastic pollution during the COVID-19 pandemic on marine life and human health. 

Homeward Bound was literally a dream by leadership expert Fabian Dattner in 2015 and developed in collaboration with Australian co-founders: conservation ecologist Dr Justine Shaw and polar marine ecologist Professor Mary-Anne Lea

Ms Dattner says the COVID pandemic had a measurably negative impact on women’s leadership globally, “despite the fact that we know, in 12 out of 16 well-researched leadership capabilities, women excel”. 

“I have been staggered to learn the very real and present challenges for many women to rise up in the STEMM fields, above and beyond what women face generally,” Ms Dattner says. “At a time when evidenced based decisions matter, more women leading is crucial.” 

In 2016, the Homeward Bound idea became reality when 76 women and an all women faculty voyaged to Antarctica. The first voyage was featured in a documentary.

International figures who have are part of Homeward Bound include global climate change leader, Christiana Figueres (Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2010 – 2016) and Musimbi Kanyoro, former president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women. 

So far, more than 600 women from more than 80 countries have participated in the program which is now in its eighth year. There are two voyages to Antarctica in November: one will depart Ushuaia, Argentina on November 3, and the other will depart Puerto Madryn, Argentina on November 12. 

ACCIONA has supported Homeward Bound since 2018, sharing the common goal of supporting female leadership talent in key STEMM disciplines to meet future challenges. 

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