Empowering Women in STEMM - Natalie's Homeward Bound Journey

By Natalie Meiklejohn

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A little bit of context

I want to live in a world where the people who make the big decisions that shape our planet - the leaders of the world - actually represent the people that LIVE in the world. If we are going to solve the many complex challenges facing our planet today, such as climate change, a growing population, resource shortages, disease and poverty - we need to be utilizing the strengths and talents of our entire population.

But there’s a problem

Globally, women are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions, and change has been incredibly slow, despite increasing dialogue and system changes. Although women comprise 60% of university graduates, only 10-20% of them make it to senior decision-making roles or professional-level academia.

We need strong voices to advocate for a change in the way we do politics and in how we live together as society. And so far, these voices are predominantly male. It's not that men can't do it - it's that women do it differently and that more diversity helps achieving our aims.

STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine) plays a crucial role in shaping our planet and solving problems in the world. These are also the fields which women have historically been most excluded from. The higher up you look at the career ladder in STEMM, the fewer women you'll find.

That's why I and many other female scientists put ourselves forward to grow as leaders as part of a year-long leadership program called Homeward Bound.

What is Homeward Bound? 

Homeward Bound is a ground-breaking, international initiative to foster scientific and strategic leadership for women. Its mission is to equip a 1000-strong global collaboration of women with a STEMM background to lead, influence and contribute to policy and decision-making to ensure a sustainable future for our planet.

This involves forming a global network, monthly meetings, leadership diagnostics and strategy training during a 12-month period. This lays the foundation for a life-changing three-week trip to Antarctica for face-to-face intensive coaching.

Launched in 2016, the inaugural program culminated in the largest-ever female expedition to Antarctica. Homeward Bound has now led three cohorts of women through the annual state-of-the-art program and Antarctic voyage, with a fourth cohort currently underway.

I am fortunate enough to have been selected as one of 75 women from around the world taking part in the fifth cohort of Homeward Bound. The 12-month leadership program begins in November 2019 and concludes in a three-week-long marine expedition from Argentina to Antarctica in November 2020.

How you can help me set sail

Delivering a year-long leadership training program and sending 75 women to Antarctica has its cost as you can imagine. The total cost of the program is $34,000 USD per person, however, Dattner Grant Pty Ltd, partners of the program subsidise over half of this. Participants are required to contribute $17,000 USD.

Although I aim to raise most of the funds via different sources, including the institutions I am aligned with, this is a lot of money to fund by myself as a student. That's why I ask you to consider contributing to my involvement in Homeward Bound.

Any contribution, big or small is greatly appreciated and will help to support this incredible project and my involvement.

About me

I’m very excited to be one of the youngest ever participants in Homeward Bound, selected for my immense potential, early demonstration of leadership initiative, and passion for protecting the environment.

I’m a postgraduate student at the University of Queensland, researching the invasive plant disease myrtle rust and its impact on key species in Far North Queensland. Prior to this my focus was on marine ecosystems, completing an Australian Museum Lizard Island Internship, and working as a research assistant on a project investigating the health of the Noosa River on the Sunshine Coast.

Alongside my research, I’m passionate about science communication and community engagement. I want to encourage more people, especially young women, to be involved in science and take a greater part in fighting the climate crisis. I was the recipient of the Tara Hunt Fellowship by the conservation organisation 1 Million Women, which gave me the opportunity to attend the International Youth Media Summit to collaborate with filmmakers and delegates from around the world on media and humanitarian projects. Growing up in Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef has a special place in my heart, and I also volunteer as an Ambassador with citizen science organisations ReefCheck Australia and CoralWatch.

I am a passionate young scientist with a diverse skill set and interdisciplinary experiences. I believe Homeward Bound would give me the support and direction needed to be leading the way for years to come.

Help me develop crucial skills to lead for the future of our planet, and empower other young women to do the same!

And here’s some amazing perks for supporting me!

For those who support $50, I will send you a postcard from the South Pole!

For those who support $100, I will send you an adorable hand-knitted penguin.

For those who support $250, I will send you a beautifully hand-crafted piece of timber wall art (all made from recycled scrap wood!)

For those who support $1,000 or more, I will offer a free presentation/workshop upon my return as well as recognise you as a major sponsor in presentations.

Let's make it happen! fundoneinspiremany

Thank you for your support,


More information about Homeward Bound can be found here:

Homeward Bound Initiative 

Homeward Bound Cohort #5

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Team Members

Natalie Meiklejohn