All-fe­male ex­pe­di­tion braves Antarc­tica to fight in­equal­ity and cli­mate change

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By THOM­SON REUTERS FOUN­DA­TION in Lon­don

The largest all-fe­male ex­pe­di­tion to Antarc­tica, com­pris­ing 76 sci­en­tists, is due to set sail from Ar­gentina on Friday in a quest to pro­mote women in sci­ence and high­light the im­pact of cli­mate change on the planet.

The in­ter­na­tional team will brave sub­zero tem­per­a­tures to un­dergo a 20-day boot­camp on the frozen con­ti­nent aimed at de­vel­op­ing their lead­er­ship skills and chal­leng­ing male dom­i­nance of se­nior sci­en­tific roles.

Women make up only 28 per­cent of the world’s re­searchers and are par­tic­u­larly un­der­rep­re­sented at se­nior levels, the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion said.

Yet greater fe­male lead­er­ship is needed to fight cli­mate change, which dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fects women, ac­cord­ing to Fabian Dat­tner, co­founder of the Antarc­tica ini­tia­tive, Home­ward Bound.

“Mother Na­ture needs her daugh­ters,” said Dat­tner, an Aus­tralian en­tre­pre­neur and lead­er­ship coach.

Many of sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa’s small­holder farm­ers — one of the groups hard­est hit by more fre­quent and wors­en­ing drought linked to cli­mate change — are women.

In other parts of the de­vel­op­ing world, women and girls face the prospect of walk­ing fur­ther to gather wa­ter as a re­sult of cli­mate change dry­ing up riverbeds and ground­wa­ter sup­plies.

We have to rec­og­nize that as women we are stronger to­gether.” Fabian Dat­tner, co-founder of Home­ward Bound.

Nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, which are ex­pected to worsen with cli­mate change, are also likely to kill more women and girls than men, a 2007 study from the Lon­don School of Eco­nomics showed.

Dat­tner said she de­cided to set up the ini­tia­tive af­ter hear­ing a group of po­lar sci­en­tists jok­ing that can­di­dates had to have a beard to land a lead­er­ship role in Antarc­tic sci­ence.

“The mes­sage of Home­ward Bound is to bring to­gether this in­tel­li­gent, ca­pa­ble group of women who are not seen, not rec­og­nized, and in large part some­what side­lined,” Dat­tner told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

Many sci­en­tists on the ex­pe­di­tion have ex­pe­ri­enced some form of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, dis­crim­i­na­tion and misog­yny in their ca­reers, she added.

Bri­tish marine ecol­o­gist Raeanne Miller said there was sol­i­dar­ity among col­leagues as they swapped sto­ries of the dif­fi­cul­ties they were fac­ing in their ca­reers and the chal­lenge of strik­ing a work-life bal­ance.

“In sci­ence some­times it is hard to pull your­self out of your re­search fo­cus and broaden your per­spec­tive,” Miller said.

“Of­ten you feel as if you are the only one ex­pe­ri­enc­ing what you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.”

Dat­tner hopes that more than 1,000 women over the next 10 years or so will take part in the ini­tia­tive to cre­ate a net­work of fe­male sci­en­tists.

“We have to rec­og­nize that as women we are stronger to­gether,” Dat­tner said.

AB­BAS MOMANI / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hus­sein Nasir al-Din points to­ward a screen at the of­fice of his com­pany Red Crow, a startup that mon­i­tors se­cu­rity de­vel­op­ments.

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