The largest ever all-female expedition to Antarctica set sail today from Argentina, with 76 scientists on board.
In a quest to “promote women in science and highlight the impact of climate change on the planet,” the Homeward Bound initiative hopes to increase women’s representation in science jobs around the world.
Co-founder Fabian Dattner told Reuters that she and her partner, Dr. Jessica Melbourne-Thomas, decided to set up the initiative after hearing a group of polar scientists joking that candidates had to have a beard to land a leadership role in Antarctic science.
“The message of Homeward Bound is to bring together this intelligent, capable group of women who are not seen, not recognized, and in large part somewhat sidelined,” Dattner told Reuters.
Dattner went on to say that many scientists on the expedition have experienced some form of sexual harassment, discrimination and misogyny in their careers.
Each of the 76 women involved were selected from a group of more than a thousand applicants, all with critical science backgrounds, and their mission is observe the effect of climate change in Antarctica over the course of 20 days.
Lectures, leadership workshops, and networking opportunities will also be available while they’re at sea.
Ordinarily, the expeditions Homeward Bound plans to undertake will be a year-long, but the inaugural program ― which focuses on the leadership of women and the state of the world ― will be from Dec. 2-21, according to their website.
“We’re missing half the voice at the leadership table,” co-founder Dr. Melbourne-Thomas told the BBC. “For various reasons it can be difficult for women to get to Antarctica or the Arctic. Homeward Bound came out of discussions around that … and the lack of representation of women in science.”
Each participant is paying for her own travel and accommodation on the voyage, and the expedition is privately funded. Dr. Melbourne-Thomas indicated that the reason the expedition is leaving from Argentina is because leaving from Australian’s Tasmania state wasn’t possible without government funding.
This trip is particularly momentous considering that women make up only 28 percent of the world’s researchers and are particularly underrepresented at senior levels, according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
“Mother Nature needs her daughters,” said Dattner.
We couldn’t agree more. Applications for a 2018 expedition open on January 17th, 2017 and according to the site there are already hundreds of women wait-listed.
How’s that for girl power?