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Institute partner scientist visits Antarctica for Women in Science Leadership Program

Jun 26, 2018
Author: Melissa White


Melissa White, a freshwater ecologist from the Science Group of the Department for Environment and Water (DEW), recently voyaged to Antarctica to participate in a leadership program designed for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM).

In 2017, Melissa was one of 80 women selected from global applications to participate in the second cohort of the 10 year Homeward Bound program. Homeward Bound is a not-for-profit initiative that aims to build a global network of 1,000 women in STEMM to influence policy and decision-making as it shapes our planet.

Despite making up 45% of the global workforce, women are globally underrepresented in leadership positions. This is despite women comprising 57% of graduates. By providing women with leadership and strategic skills and a strong purposefully developed network, the program aims to enhance their ability to impact policy and decision-making for a sustainable future.

Why Antarctica? Regions of Antarctica are showing the fastest responses to some of the global sustainability problems we currently face. Antarctica offers an unparalleled opportunity to observe first-hand the influence of human activities on the environment and provide critical insights into the global-scale change required. This iconic environment has captured the imagination of leaders in the past and the expedition experience of the Antarctic component of the Homeward Bound program creates strong bonds between participants.

The year-long, state-of-the-art leadership program took Melissa on the journey of: working with participants at a global scale across time zones and disciplines; undertaking a diagnostic of individual leadership styles both personally and from 360° to acknowledge, reflect, and undertake personal growth and change; and developing a visibility strategy and skills to communicate science.

Melissa is using the skills she learnt from the leadership program in her current role as a water policy officer working for Natural Resources South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, where she works with Aboriginal nations to amend water allocation plans within the Basin. This role enables Melissa to engage with Aboriginal people to progress Aboriginal water interests in South Australia’s water policy for a sustainable and equitable future.

You can read more about Melissa’s journey of leadership and see amazing footage of the Antarctic Peninsula in The Weekly or on her blog.

If you are interested in applying for the Homeward Bound leadership program, see their website or contact Melissa for a first-hand account of the program.

Melissa would like to acknowledge the support of the Science, and Parks & Regions Groups within DEW who supported her to undertake this leadership journey to Antarctica.