Antartica-bound women scientists team up to save Mother Earth

SOURCE: Henrique Setim/Unsplash
Homeward Bound is a global initiative to drive empower and drive change among women in STEMM.

By U2B Staff 

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The University of Queensland is sending five women scientists to Antarctica as part of a global professional development programme by Dattner Group founder Fabian Dattner. 

The Homeward Bound initiative seeks to elevate the influence and impact of women to drive game-changing decisions for the planet. It draws upon the collaboration and expertise of women scientists, leaders and organisations from over 33 countries.

The initiative was created from a dream of Dattner’s in 2015. To turn the dream into reality, the Australian social entrepreneur and leadership activist teamed up with Australian Antarctic Division marine ecologist Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas and University of Queensland research fellow Dr Justine Shaw.

With the support of globally notable scientific bodies and women of influence, the trio created a strong leadership team and teaching faculty and, by end-2015, succeeded in achieving viral success for the project.

The inaugural three-month programme that officially launched in 2016 later culminated in the largest-ever female expedition to Antarctica.


Today a year-long leadership programme, it involves sending a multi-disciplinary cohort of some of the brightest women in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine) on a transformational leadership expedition to Antarctica. 

The current cohort dubbed HB4 is the initiative’s fourth run and consists of 100 hand-picked participants who have already embarked on their journey to Antarctica.

Homeward Bound activities aim to improve applied science and to address global issues, especially concerning environmental degradation. 

It offers an environment of collaboration for scientists, entrepreneurs and industry experts to exchange knowledge and leadership skills, cultivating a shared culture of female empowerment, equality and global impact in areas of critical importance.

women scientist
Australia has been encouraging more activities in gender equality, especially among academics and STEMM. (Source: Amy Hirschi/Unsplash)

Achieving workforce gender equality and lifting female representation and participation in STEMM fields is a national imperative in Australia. Homeward Bound is a welcome programme in this regard, standing as one of the few private-public sector initiatives that will help the country advance its cause.

Participants of the programme will benefit from hearing from various field experts and take part in hands-on research during the expedition, equipping themselves with relevant skills to lead, influence and contribute to international policy and decision-making. 

“We’re thrilled to be helping to build a trusting, highly-skilled, global network of women in science who are looking to disrupt the leadership landscape,” said University of Queensland marine ecologist Dr Emma Kennedy.

“Beyond on-the-ground science, we’ll be working together to build trust, a sense of self and the ability to give and receive feedback…These skills can help us coach peers, increase the strategic visibility of women and help connect and communicate scientific ideas.” 


The University of Queensland has provided various support to further bolster the programme’s initiatives. This includes financial and expert contributions from the Institute of Molecular Biosciences, Global Change Institute, SAGE Athena SWAN Programme, the Faculty of Science and UQ-based Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) offices. 

“In Homeward Bound, we help Mother Earth. Activists alongside physicists, marine biologists alongside engineers, geologists alongside astronomers. We come together to learn to lead more effectively. We come together because we are stronger this way. We come together for the greater good,” said Dattner.

“We travel to the most remote part of our planet, to focus on home – earth. Not the science of saving it, but the practice of leadership that will ensure the science is heard and understood.”