Can female leadership create a sustainable future?

Departing from Ushuaia on Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago on 2 December next year will be 78 female scientists from around the globe on their way to Antarctica. Their mission? To use their scientific skills and developed leadership skills to bring the world to a more sustainable future.

The women are participants in a Homeward Bound program focusing on the leadership and strategic skills necessary to influence policy and decisions towards a sustainable future. The program is the brainchild of Australian leadership expert Fabian Dattner in collaboration with Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre. Homeward Bound has selected 78 female leaders in science from around the world, including Canada, Australia, France, Germany, UK, US, Norway, New Zealand and South Africa, who will together work on a range of projects throughout 2016, culminating in a 20 day trip to Antarctica to cement their ideas into real time actionable plans.

“This project was the result of a real dream – one night ‐ that changed my life and the lives of literally dozens of women. The entire learning focus will be framed by the Antarctic experience. Everything we do, everything we see, all the places we land, the people we meet, the animals we watch, all the discussions between us, the vision and values we focus on, the leadership and strategic content presented; this is all about our role in a sustainable world”, Dattner says in a press release.

The women are already accomplished scientists. What this program aims to do is to boost their leadership skills and strategic capability so they can take up leadership positions globally where they can actively effect policy and actions that will benefit the planet and our lives on it. Homeward Bound aims to build a global collaboration of 1,000 women scientists over the next ten years.

One of the aims of Homeward Bound is to elevate the role of women in leadership globally. Another is to explore how female scientists might be able to give the world solutions to climate challenge that might be more sustainable.

The Antarctic has been chosen as the region “acts like a canary in a mineshaft” being the first to signal danger. Results of climate change are currently most evident in the regions of Antarctica, where it is happening faster than anywhere on the planet. Data gathered from Antarctica and the Southern Ocean provides vital information on global climate change and the role of humans in that change.

A 60-minute documentary is being made, exploring the role of women in our world, highlighting the lack of women in leadership roles and posing the question whether we would have had more long-term solutions around climate change and its devastating effects if more women leaders were heard on this issue. It is a well-known fact that women are in a minority globally when it comes to executive decision making.

Says Dattner: “Women are the backbone of the not‐for‐profit, disability and education sectors, they are emerging in all universities as significant percentages of graduates, they take up significant percentages or our workforce and they provide the most unpaid community work. They do most of the work in our homes, are more trustworthy with money and they excel at all but four of 16 well researched leadership capabilities. And they are in a profound minority in executive decision making roles which shape our future”.