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The Largest Ever Women’s Expedition To Antarctica Will Upscale Science Diplomacy


The Ushaia ship with iceberg.

The Ushaia ship with iceberg.

Homeward Bound

Today the Homeward Bound Program is taking 100 women from 33 different countries and 25 different disciplines to Antarctica, in the largest-ever all-women expedition to the continent. At its fourth edition, the program is promoting women in science diplomacy and climate action. 

The group, who says that CO2 emissions will be fully compensated, will leave from Ushuaia in Argentina on November 22 and will visit 10 bases and research stations in three weeks. Their work together started one year ago with a focus on leadership, strategy, visibility and science.

Homeward Bound is based on the idea that the climate crisis is not reducible to an environmental issue. The women involved are convinced that the real problem is a leadership crisis at all levels and across all sectors of society.

“One of the ways to tackle this problem is by building a more diverse and inclusive leadership structures,” explained the Spanish science diplomat Marga Gual Soler, who is taking part in the expedition. “As for me, I look at the global framework - and it is a challenge for diplomacy and the way in which countries choose to collaborate or compete with each other.”

"This is why we need to restore the importance of science," Gual Soler added. “There is no solution to the climate crisis if our decision-making processes and public policies are not informed by the best available science.”

So they chose Antarctica as the symbolic place of scientific collaboration and a sentinel for climate change. “Nobody owns Antarctica, it belongs to all of us, we must speak for this land that has no indigenous people. I am very excited to be there to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty on December 1.”

“Hopefully policy will be more accurately formed by science,” said Humera Iqbal, an animal nutritionist from Pakistan, participating in the expedition. “Policy makers need the evidence support as they can’t make the right decisions alone and confidence in research is highly important.”

Homeward Bound was launched in 2015, from the initiative of Australian leadership activist and consultant Fabian Dattner and Antarctic marine scientist Jess-Melbourne Thomas. Since then, three cohorts of women have been involved through the annual state-of-the-art program and Antarctic voyage, one is currently undergoing and a fifth will soon be announced.

“Growing up, it was not that popular to pursue a STEM field for a girl as it was more challenging and the environment far more competitive and there were not many role models to look up to,” said Charity Mundava, a Zimbabwean geospatial scientist currently working in the water resources industry and part of the Homeward Bond group.

“Undertaking research work in the Australian Outback opened my eyes to the lack of women engaged in my field, which presented both challenges and opportunities for learning. I learnt that I needed to be an influencer so young people can have role models in science.”

Iqbal agreed: “Cultural norms sometimes hinder women and cross culture values really hit their mental health and well being. Women have to learn how to support each other.”

According to the latest UNESCO report, globally 72% of researchers are men. Only one country out of five reaches what is classified as 'gender equality', meaning women making 45-55% of researchers. In Europe, women represent 41% of scientists and engineers.

In addition to the pay-gap, women in STEM suffer from a 'fundraising gap'. Gender constitutes a 10% difference in the earnings of female fundraisers compared to their male counterparts, according to a research published by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

That’s why the Homeward Bound participants receive a scholarship, but they are also invited to do crowdfunding for the necessary $17,000 each.

"This campaign wants to put us in a position to promote ourselves as Silicon Valley men do when they face an audience of investors," said Gual Soler. "Sometimes it is crazy how much money they can collect with the sole passion and strength of their speech, even without having fully developed their idea."

"I think there is widespread confusion about why women fail to achieve certain goals, which blames them claiming they don't do enough and should do more.

I don't want to bring this message, because women are no less self-confident than men. However, the structure of our society and the inputs received constitute a barrier and prevent women from using their full potential."

Gual Soler and his companions will return in mid-December.

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Today the Homeward Bound Program is taking 100 women from 33 different countries and 25 different disciplines to Antarctica, in the largest-ever all-women expedition to the continent. At its fourth edition, the program is promoting women in science diplomacy and climate action. 

The group, who says that CO2 emissions will be fully compensated, will leave from Ushuaia in Argentina on November 22 and will visit 10 bases and research stations in three weeks. Their work together started one year ago with a focus on leadership, strategy, visibility and science.

Homeward Bound is based on the idea that the climate crisis is not reducible to an environmental issue. The women involved are convinced that the real problem is a leadership crisis at all levels and across all sectors of society.

“One of the ways to tackle this problem is by building a more diverse and inclusive leadership structures,” explained the Spanish science diplomat Marga Gual Soler, who is taking part in the expedition. “As for me, I look at the global framework - and it is a challenge for diplomacy and the way in which countries choose to collaborate or compete with each other.”

"This is why we need to restore the importance of science," Gual Soler added. “There is no solution to the climate crisis if our decision-making processes and public policies are not informed by the best available science.”

So they chose Antarctica as the symbolic place of scientific collaboration and a sentinel for climate change. “Nobody owns Antarctica, it belongs to all of us, we must speak for this land that has no indigenous people. I am very excited to be there to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty on December 1.”

“Hopefully policy will be more accurately formed by science,” said Humera Iqbal, an animal nutritionist from Pakistan, participating in the expedition. “Policy makers need the evidence support as they can’t make the right decisions alone and confidence in research is highly important.”

Homeward Bound was launched in 2015, from the initiative of Australian leadership activist and consultant Fabian Dattner and Antarctic marine scientist Jess-Melbourne Thomas. Since then, three cohorts of women have been involved through the annual state-of-the-art program and Antarctic voyage, one is currently undergoing and a fifth will soon be announced.

“Growing up, it was not that popular to pursue a STEM field for a girl as it was more challenging and the environment far more competitive and there were not many role models to look up to,” said Charity Mundava, a Zimbabwean geospatial scientist currently working in the water resources industry and part of the Homeward Bond group.

“Undertaking research work in the Australian Outback opened my eyes to the lack of women engaged in my field, which presented both challenges and opportunities for learning. I learnt that I needed to be an influencer so young people can have role models in science.”

Iqbal agreed: “Cultural norms sometimes hinder women and cross culture values really hit their mental health and well being. Women have to learn how to support each other.”

According to the latest UNESCO report, globally 72% of researchers are men. Only one country out of five reaches what is classified as 'gender equality', meaning women making 45-55% of researchers. In Europe, women represent 41% of scientists and engineers.

In addition to the pay-gap, women in STEM suffer from a 'fundraising gap'. Gender constitutes a 10% difference in the earnings of female fundraisers compared to their male counterparts, according to a research published by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

That’s why the Homeward Bound participants receive a scholarship, but they are also invited to do crowdfunding for the necessary $17,000 each.

"This campaign wants to put us in a position to promote ourselves as Silicon Valley men do when they face an audience of investors," said Gual Soler. "Sometimes it is crazy how much money they can collect with the sole passion and strength of their speech, even without having fully developed their idea."

"I think there is widespread confusion about why women fail to achieve certain goals, which blames them claiming they don't do enough and should do more.

I don't want to bring this message, because women are no less self-confident than men. However, the structure of our society and the inputs received constitute a barrier and prevent women from using their full potential."

Gual Soler and his companions will return in mid-December.


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