Largest All-Women Expedition Venture To Antarctica To Improve Female Representation In Science

A group of more than 70 women have set off to Antarctica to help raise awareness to the influence and impact of women in science

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If you're currently wrapped up in a scarf while sitting at your desk, clutching a mug of tea and are filled with dread at the thought of heading outside to fetch a sandwich at lunchtime, take a second to think of the largest ever all-female expedition currently on the way to Antarctica.

According to the BBC, more than 70 women are leaving Ushuaia, Argentina today to head to the southernmost continent – where the average winter temperature is about -49°C – to increase the representation of women in scientific jobs around the world.

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Organised as part of the Homeward Bound initiative – an Australian leadership, strategic and science initiative for women – 76 women (out of more than 1000 applicants) with scientific backgrounds are en route to spend 20 days at sea to observed the effect of climate change on Antarctica. Previous scientific experience includes astronomy, engineering, physics and medicine.

While there, the women will take part in a series of lectures, leadership and networking workshops, led by experts in science and climate change, and discuss important topics such as emotional intelligence and the influence of decision-making of women in science.

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Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas, who came up with the idea of the expedition with entrepreneur Fabian Dattner, told the BBC:

We're missing half the voice at the leadership table.

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'For various reasons it can be difficult for women to get to Antarctica or the Arctic,' she says, two years after she met Dattner and realised they had a shared annoyance at how women are viewed in scientific fields.

The expedition has been privately funded, with each of the participants paying for their own travel and accommodation.

The initiative's website explains why the emphasis on female scientists is important for this expedition. It reads:

Women are emerging from college degrees as significant percentages of graduates and they take up a significant percentage of our workforce. However, they are in the profound minority globally when it comes to executive decision making roles.

Melbourne-Thomas says it's crucial to increase the number of women in senior positions in science as the impact of climate be more detrimental to women than men due to a lack of leadership roles and a lack of role models to show an example to fellow women.

'I've started thinking about Homeward Bound as one part of a wave of initiatives that together might mean we are able to move forward, rather than seeing this very slow rate of change,' she says.

Applications for the next expedition – planned to leave in 2018 – will be open from January next year.

Considering applying? You might need to take an extra wooly hat.

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