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Homeward Bound raises awareness for women in STEM

In a new initiative to raise awareness of the impact of women in science leadership, the Homeward Bound Program has been selecting women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields and flying them to Antarctica for an intensive three-week conference at sea.

The leadership program aims to guide 1000 women over a 10-year period, with the third cohort set to sail in December this year.

Jacobs Asia-Pacific GIS Technical Director Mary Ellen Feeney is one of the few selected for the program. Feeney said she is thrilled to be included in what she believes to be a hugely important initiative.

“Homeward Bound stands to recognise the fact that many women in science, engineering and technology professions, even if they progress to become leaders in their fields, still end up being quite isolated,” Feeney said.

“Women still end up being the minority in our leadership areas. Australia has a history of that –  less than 15% of our leadership across many STEM professions are female. The whole idea is that women are stronger together. If we can’t build those networks within our fields, we can attempt to do it globally, with a network of colleagues in related disciplines.”

Feeney said the aims of the program are three-fold.

”The first is to increase the visibility of women in STEM in order to create female role models for young people,” Feeney said.

“The second is to build up networks to support women in those leadership roles so that they are not isolated. If they can’t draw on support from their immediate professional sector or organisation, they at least have these secondary networks.

“Thirdly, it aims to bring some equity to our stewardship of the environment. A lot of the decisions being made about the stewardship of our environment are made by men, and there should be different approaches being brought to the table.”

The program takes the cohort through a range of different activities, including guidance on techniques for visibility, science communication, as well as a symposium dedicated to exploring each of the participants’ disciplines.

“On the vessel, we work on things like techniques for visibility, science communication and there is a symposium at sea – a mini conference where we talk about our different disciplines,” Feeney said.

Being the first woman from Jacobs to be selected for the program, Feeney said she looking forward to some of the experiences on offer on this program.

“Antarctica is a beautiful, inspiring place. It’s also a very sensitive environment and is often the first to show the effects of changes in our global climate and environmental conditions. It’s also an isolated environment, where women can come together to focus on change and development together.”

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