Change the world by changing yourself

Women scientists from around the globe are about to embark on an expedition set to change the world.

On Friday, 2 December 2016, more than 70 women will set sail for the Antarctic, participating in an immersive leadership program aimed at raising women’s voices on environmental sustainability.

The Homeward Bound Project was born from a burning passion to increase the representation of women in science leadership.

The Tasmanian contingent was wished bon voyage this week by Homeward Bound Patron, Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner, Governor of Tasmania.

Her Excellency summed it up like this, “I’m very conscious of one of the reasons for gender inequality in employment, gender pay gap for example, because females are underrepresented in areas of science, technology and engineering and overrepresented in areas of lower paid employment. Moreover the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles means we’re just not utilising the best talent.”

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Science is not my forte, but I do know bit about the glass ceiling and I’m interested in people who want to protect our planet.

This Girl asked Britta Denise Hardesty, principal research scientist for CSIRO oceans and atmosphere, about what it means to her to be part of the Homeward Bound Project.

Britta knows she’s on a good wicket. Californian by birth and Hobartian by choice, she’s enjoyed a life surrounded by loved ones who believed in her ability to succeed.

It has paid off. She’s worked on every continent, has three Antarctic landings under her belt, is PhD qualified, and holds a senior position in the Australian Government’s scientific research body, where she leads research on marine debris, a subject that resonates across the board.

But what drives this amazingly clever, confident and competent scientist, is the desire to be a better, more connected person.

When asked what she wants to get out of the expedition she said, “It’s an incredible opportunity. I’m really looking forward to building a community of women scientists from around the world. I hope to gain some real personal skills in my professional development – to be a better leader, to communicate more effectively.”

I wondered momentarily how a man would have answered the same question before an adventure of a lifetime set to optimise his leadership capacity. It’s further proof to me that for most women, the personal is political.

To change your world, you have to start with yourself.

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Britta Denise Hardesty

There’s something incredibly alluring about Antarctica. My path has crossed the odd scientist from time to time in Hobart. That’s an occasional meeting, not a strange scientist, and I’ve seen the photos of great ice walls and swimming amongst icebergs on a ‘hot day’ in the Antarctic. There’s high drama about this ice continent as the destination for a leadership workshop instead of a conference room in the city with catering of curried egg sandwiches.

“There’s no single other place in the world that has more power and majesty than the Antarctic, where you feel the power of nature and how small we are in a really beautiful way. One of the critical things about it is stepping outside the rest of your life and being fully immersed in a place. This is about bringing women scientists together to address the most fundamental issue facing our world today – the sustainability of our environment. Where better to do that than a place where you experience the full power of nature?”

I asked Britta about the significance of the project’s tagline – Mother Nature needs her daughters.

“We need women at the leadership table, to be part of the conversation so the conversation is well-rounded. It’s broken if we don’t have diversity in our voices. We all know that women are really underrepresented in senior leadership positions and this is an opportunity for us to become more adept, to be more effective, and that’s what I want out of it.”

The Homeward Bound project was initiated by Fabian Dattner and Jess Melbourne-Thomas in 2015. The aim of the project is to provide women with strategic leadership capability with as Fabian said at the farewell to the Tasmanian women, “…the sole outcome of elevating their voices and their leadership as it shapes policy and decision making and in our world today.”

“That we are so consistently unable to select women, when all the research we have on leadership capability tells us that they have qualities and skills that our planet urgently needs,” she said.

“If the beautiful men out there are saying (Mother Nature) she also needs her sons, just be aware that leadership in the sciences makes up 9-10% of women in senior leadership roles. What the research shows is that they collaborate more effectively, they are inclusive, they have a legacy mindset and they can be trusted with money. In the face of what is happening in the world I think we need that capability more than we’ve ever needed it,” Fabian said.

Find out more about the project – Homeward Bound Project

They’re making a documentary – watch out for it.

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