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12 Days till Christmas – Day 12. Women at the forefront

12 days till Christmas - reflections from a leadership journey for Women and non-binary in STEM focusing on sustainability, climate change and global challenges- culminating in an expedition and leadership journey to Antarctica.

Mother Nature Needs her Daughters: The 100+ strong team prior to departure in Puerto Madryn, excited but with little knowledge of what lay ahead. Photo credit: Uriel Sokolowicza.


We are back at sea, heading northwards towards warmer climes. Traveling to Antarctica by sea really adds to the feel of just how far away and different it is. Two days at sea, often with an enforced inability to do anything while the body responds, the best it can to ‘bobbing around’ in the open Ocean. Crossing the infamous Drake Passage is not to be under-estimated, but thankfully the return journey is more 'Drake Lake' than 'Drake Shake' and we are entertained by a series of great talks by the Expedition Team. Cat on Women in Antarctica was popular amongst the 100 strong all women and non-binary team aboard.


Ready to depart Puerto Madryn, Pride flag from Securing Antarctica's Environmental Future, setting sail from Puerto Madryn en-route to the Deep South.

What an amazing set of women we were introduced to, from the first women on the continent to those pushing the boundaries now: like Preet Chandi the first women of colour to ski solo to the south pole in 2022; before returning in 2023 to achieve the longest solo unsupported one-way polar ski journey for a woman and the longest solo unsupported one-way polar ski journey ever, irrespective of gender. But I was shocked and ashamed as a Brit to hear that the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), did not allow women to visit the continent until 1983! A decade later I was completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Leeds and being taught by Jane Francis. Now Professor Dame Francis and the first female Director of the British Antarctic Survey. I had not fully appreciated at the time how boundary breaking she was, my naive undergraduate self did not give much candour to barriers real or virtual. Jane first went to the Antarctic Peninsula in 1989 on an International geology expedition supported by BAS, before any BAS women had overwintered in Antarctica (1993) and some time before the first females overwintered at the British Rothera Research Station (1997). Cat's talk uncovered the brave female pioneers and the discrimination they had faced, and which many women and non-binary people face today.

Looking out as we start the journey South, celebrating polar-pride day during the voyage, arriving back in Ushuaia changed and ready for action. (Photo Credits: polar-pride - Heidi Victoria, arriving back in Ushuaia - Joel Reyero)


So why 100 women and non-binary on a ship to Antarctica? Why leadership? And why me?

Well, it all started in a pre-COVID World and quite simply I was ready for a change I was ready to do something different in my life. The Homeward Bound program with its focus on sustainability, climate and global challenges and a narrative for change in leadership to one that included long term thinking was different and spoke to my internal sense for a need for transformation. Ask yourself, if we had different leaders and if more of them were women would national and global policies and actions be different? Would the UN and other World institutions be more effective in their causes? How could the World be different? And how would you like it to be? Homeward Bound is a call to action, a call for change and a new narrative for leadership for our Planet.




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