Historic, All Women Expedition Set Sail for Antarctica
The largest ever group of all women scientists has set sail for Antarctica from Ushuaia, Argentina, also known as the end of the world. The 76 scientists, selected from a pool of 1,000 applicants, will be at sea for 20 days to study climate change.
The expedition is part of the Homeward Bound initiative, which works to elevate the voices and influence of female scientists so women are involved in shaping the policy decisions that affect the environment.
The initiative aims to bring together 1,000 women scientists from around the world over the next decade to unlock the “untapped capacity” of women in science.
In addition to their work with climate change, the chosen scientists will take part in a lecture series, leadership workshops and sessions on climate change and other environmental issues. If the initiative is able to accomplish its goals, after ten years there will be a lot more female scientists with hands on experience monitoring climate change and a whole lot of leadership skills.
Dr. Jessica Melbourne-Thomas, an expert in Antarctic ecological modeling, and management expert Fabian Dattner came up with the idea during a leadership development course Dattner ran. The two bonded while venting their frustrations over the challenges women in science face everyday.
After two years, those frustrations have turned into action and the pair are helping women scientists overcome some of those very challenges.
The setbacks Homeward Bound is working to address are complicated and multi-faceted. Women make up less than a quarter of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professionals and are often shut of out the opportunities their male peers are able to grab.
Plus, one study showed female scientists receive half the funding men are awarded which can have long-term consequences for their careers. And fewer women in science means fewer female leaders in science to mentor young women just starting out their careers.
The opportunities available through the initiative will hopefully help alleviate some of these challenges for the scientists on board.
It may be especially meaningful, also, that a group of female scientists will be studying an issue that could have a particularly disastrous effect on women globally. Research shows that women are impacted the most by climate change and even face higher mortality rates as climate change continues to go unchecked.
“The most pressing concern for scientists at the moment is climate change,” Dr. Amanda Davies, a geographer and social demographer in the program, told Perth Now. “Antarctica is like a canary in the mine…[it's] the first indicator of things going wrong, so it’s really important to have a good understanding of what’s happening there.”
Photo Credit: Thinkstock