Homeward Bound: Women in Science to create Global Change – Bec H

By Bec Handcock

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  • Homeward Bound is a global 12-month outreach initiative for women with a background in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine), culminating in a 3-week voyage to Antarctica at the end of 2019.  
  • The program aim over 10 years is to equip a 1000-strong collaboration of women to provide them with the tools to make a difference globally, especially with climate change.
  • Set against the backdrop of Antarctica, the program aims to heighten the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape our planet.
  • I am part of the fourth Homeward Bound cohort which includes 96 participants encompassing 33 nationalities and its most diverse representation of STEMM fields to date.

Why Homeward Bound?

Why Now?

If not now, when? The sustainability of our planet is in crisis. Homeward Bound aims to contribute to both these global issues. Launched in 2016, the inaugural program culminated in the largest ever female expedition to Antarctica. Homeward Bound has led three cohorts of women through the year-long state-of-the-art program, and I am part of Cohort #4.

Why Women?

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

Each year in Australia alone, more than half of all science undergraduates and half of all PhD students are female. Women even comprise 60% of junior lecturers in science. However, similar to many fields, as movement up the career ladder progresses, women find themselves making up just 16% of top-level science and technology professors and researchers. This is a big problem, as diverse teams with an equal gender balance are known to solve problems more effectively and work more efficiently.


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.

How were participants chosen

I was chosen as one of 96 women from around the globe in the fourth cohort of Homeward Bound, encompassing 33 nationalities and 25 STEMM disciplines. The program was competitive, including selection criteria, a CV, and a short video presentation.

What is the Program?

  • The 12-month program focuses on four main components: leadership development, strategic capability, visibility and science communication.
  • As the participants are located around the globe, the course is delivered via monthly video conference calls and small-group meetings, sessions with a professional coach, and on-line material.
  • The program culminates in a meeting of all 96 participants in Ushuaia, Argentina before embarking on a life-changing 21-day expedition to one of the most ecologically sensitive and inspiring areas on Earth, Antarctica, in November/December 2019.
  • On board the Antarctic expedition, there will be a strong focus on gender issues in STEMM, collaboration and a whole-of-life approach to leadership.

Every month I commit 25-30 hours of my personal time for the program, which includes:

  • Monthly virtual meetings
  • Key leadership diagnostics and professional coaching
  • Introduction to personal strategy and visibility tools
  • Participating in ‘theme’ teams - teams that address agreed issues of global concern
  • Preparing for the Antarctic expedition, including building skills for giving and receiving feedback, creating teamwork, collaboration, managing difficult conversations, dealing with stress, separation from family and resilience under pressure
  • Introduction to science communication strategies
  • Introduction to reflective learning practices

What I want to achieve

My personal goal in participating in Homeward Bound is to use my skills to communicate the challenges we face as a planet and empower others to help make a difference.

Homeward Bound also offers the opportunity to connect with a network of like-minded individuals, from whom I can seek guidance, inspiration and support. I hope to be able to provide the same to the women on the journey with me, but also to my family, friends and community.

A little bit about me

I am a geographer and data scientist from a country coastal town in Western Australia. Loving science and maps, I completed my PhD in Geography from the University of Toronto. My research ranges from remote sensing of agriculture and water to health and bibliometrics. I enjoy visualising patterns in data and communicating the stories they tell about people and the environment.

You can find out more about the other Homeward Bound participants from the Homeward Bound page: https://homewardboundprojects.com.au/hb1-participants/hb4-participants/

How can you help?

  • I am grateful for any support for the program. Every small bit helps and adds up.
  • Your contribution is an acknowledgement that this program is an opportunity to make a difference, to inspire future STEMM leaders and improve the representation of women at the decision table for science and policy. 
  • The total cost of the Homeward Bound program is US $31,000 per participant, a significant proportion of which is covered by in-kind contributions from partners in the program.
  • Each participant needs to raise the remaining US $17,000 (approx. AUD $25,000) to cover the remaining portion of the program, plus estimated travel costs of AUD $7,000 to Ushuaia in Argentina, Antarctica clothing, and travel insurance. The Total estimated cost of each participant’s contribution to the program comes to AUD $ 32,000.

Perks for supporting me!

I would love to send you an awesome perk for supporting me! Please see these on the sidebar.


For those who would like to assist me reach my target – a heartfelt thank you.

You can also show your support by spreading the message to your colleagues, friends and family through word of mouth and social media. Please feel free to also send us words of encouragement as we embark on this once in a lifetime opportunity!

More information?

For more information on the Homeward Bound Program, please see below.

Homeward Bound website:


My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BecHandcockHB4/ 

Homeward Bound Facebook page:


Or email me: BecHandcockHB4@gmail.com

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Bec Handcock