Women. Science. Antarctica. Towlson.

By Emma Towlson

{{ shares.facebook | thousands }}

Total shares

Homeward Bound is a ground-breaking leadership initiative, set against the backdrop of Antarctica, which aims to heighten the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape our planet.


At the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, there is a long hallway lined with photographs. The photographs are one per year, and depict all physics research students since the 19th Century. They begin with black and white photographs, containing less than 20 people, mostly Nobel prize winners – all men, moustached, and wearing the same suit. As you walk up the wall, the pictures slowly but surely start to change. The number of people increases, colour appears, clothes become less formal… and the first women and international students emerge. When you’ve finally walked to the present day, you are greeted with an image of hundreds of diverse and vibrant people from all different backgrounds.

If only that diversity were homogeneous – you will still spot an overwhelming majority of white males amongst the professors. We have come such a long way from that first photograph of wealthy white men with moustaches, but we are far from done yet. Men vastly outnumber women in positions of leadership and power – even men with the same first name!! In science and policy making, sometimes the gender imbalance is egregious, and sometimes it is subtle, but it remains pervasive, and many women, justifiably, quietly exit.



Unless you have been living under a rock for the entirety of your life, you will be aware that humanity is facing some pretty damn pressing environmental challenges, that really do threaten all life on earth. Nowhere is the havoc we are wreaking on the planet more visible than at the poles.

By journeying to Antarctica, we will see this first-hand. And we will not be quiet about it. In a land where the sun never quite sets, and conditions are some of the harshest on earth, we will complete the final stage of the program and forge our 100-day leadership plans.

Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound has a 10-year vision to create a 1000-strong network of women scientists, ready and able to exert their influence on global policy. For each woman, this involves a year-long program, of which the Antarctic voyage is the culmination. Over the year, we will receive training from world-class authorities on how to maximise our capabilities, and work together virtually on group projects. In December 2019, we will convene from over the globe on Ushuaia, Argentina, to set sail on our life-changing journey together.

I am honoured to have been offered a place amongst the 100 amazing women selected for the 4th team, and I will use it to the fullest extent of my power. Assuming I don’t disappear amongst the icebergs, I will come out of this stronger, connected with some of the world’s most influential women, and well informed on how I can leverage my own skills and position to positively shape the world.

Why so much ££?

The value of the program – with voyage, time of leadership and experts, etc – works out to be 31,000 USD per person. We are not being asked to foot all of this, the team are being extremely generous. But we are required to contribute a significant sum, and are also responsible for various other sizable personal costs (travel to Argentina, more insulation than you can possibly imagine, etc).

And me?

I’m a network (neuro)scientist, based at the Center for Complex Network Research, Northeastern University in Boston. My perspective is one based on connections – everything is inextricably interlinked, and we must think at a systems (global) level rather than the individual. My biggest passions are neuroscience and education, and I am fortunate enough to practice both in a truly global sense. This inevitably means I have an enormous respect for life, for the world, for knowledge, and for future generations – I was instantly hooked when I learned about this initiative.

I come from a working-class background in the UK and have faced significant medical and financial challenges, but I am greatly privileged: I have enjoyed the knowledge that a path to success exists for me, and determination, hard work, and talent have allowed me to walk it. Even many moons ago when I was a teenager I approached and then attended a boys’ school for 2 years so I had access to the qualifications I needed. I want our young people to have more pathways, with less obstacles along them, and be educated and empowered to walk them: regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, beliefs, etc.

Your donation

I know these issues matter deeply to you, too. What I’m asking is, do you believe in me? To fight for women, to fight for a better future for the next generation. I have SO much fight in me - anything you can give will take me closer to securing my spot on this program, connecting me with these fierce ladies, and learning more about to how to meaningfully change the status quo.


(Of course, you could just want me to disappear at the end of the world, in which case you should seriously consider donating, too.)

    {{ giver.full_name}}

    {{ giver.created_at }}
    {{ currencyConversion(giver.currency) }}

    £{{ currencyConversion(giver.currency) }}{{ giver.don_amount }}

    Offline donation

Team Members

Emma Towlson