Jessamyn's leadership voyage with Homeward Bound

By Jessamyn Fairfield

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Science is sexist, women are pushed away from leadership, and the world is on fire. And I want to do something about it.

My name is Jessamyn Fairfield and I’m a physicist, a comedian, and a science communicator. I don’t see things the way that other people do – I grew up in Los Alamos, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, and now I research nanoscience, teach physics, and look for new ways to explore science. I was always fascinated with understanding how the world worked, and while I entered college thinking that was a pretty gender-neutral fascination, I've seen fewer and fewer women at each stage of my career, not because women aren't curious or talented but because they aren't treated the same or given the same opportunities as men. This bothers me.

To solve societal challenges like climate change, we can’t ignore the talents of half the population, and especially at the leadership level. Research has shown that diverse groups produce better science, better business, and more creative solutions to problems. We don't just need diversity of people - we need diversity of thought.

Diversity of thought - creative solutions

I love doing creative things and performing as well as doing scientific research, which is why I run Bright Club Ireland, a comedy club with academic speakers. We've held over 70 events across Ireland with academics doing stand-up comedy in pubs. I’ve also collaborated with graphic designers, filmmakers, playwrights, choreographers, and musicians to bring science into new light.

I enjoy this work so much that when I saw the opportunity to go on a science/art residency on a sailing ship in the Arctic Circle in 2017, I knew I had to take it. I have always loved stories of polar exploration, and wanted to be Fridtjof Nansen on the Fram frozen into the sea ice, using science to better understand the remote wildernesses that we can still see. But when I finally joined the ship Antigua in Svalbard, what was most striking was the change in these wildernesses – the shrinking glaciers, the animals displaced by climate change, the plastic refuse washing up on even the most pristine arctic beaches.

There are consequences, economic and aesthetic and moral, if we continue to trash our one planet, our home. So how can we save the world, keep more and diverse women in science, and get more women into leadership roles?

What can we do to change things?

Enter Homeward Bound. This leadership program for women in science, technology, engineering and math takes place over the course of a year, supporting women in science to significantly improve their clarity, confidence, shared vision and strategic capability. This helps women like me to take up leadership roles globally and to proactively contribute to a sustainable world both individually and collectively. At the end of the program, my cohort of women will go to Antarctica, an iconic and challenging landscape that is experiencing some of the most severe consequences of climate change, with implications for the entire rest of the world.

Over ten years, Homeward Bound is building a global collaboration of 1,000 women with scientific backgrounds. They will be visible, collaborative, networked and will impact the decisions made in many quarters for the greater good.

I want to change things for the better. Will you help me fund this journey, and bring more scientific women into leadership positions across the world?

The specifics

The money I'm asking for will go toward the Homeward Bound programme costs, which cover leadership coaching, visibility and science instruction, tools like LSI and 4MAT that help analyse behaviour and leadership, and of course, the capstone voyage to Antarctica in November 2019 with 100 amazing women in STEMM from around the world. I already have the support of my university's office for equality and diversity, but I need your help!

I have postcards, calendars, books, and other perks to thank you for chipping in. It can be scary to think about big issues like climate change and sexism, but if we all do a little bit to help, then big changes are possible. We're all in this together!

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Jessamyn Fairfield