It’s been a year since our first Homeward Bound cohort of female scientists departed for Antarctica. Between the anniversary of the first voyage and the departure of the second on 18 February 2018, we’ll be sharing the stories of our inaugural participants and their journeys, in their own words, one year on. Their stories put faces to the facts about women in leadership, women in STEMM and what’s happening to our planet. Follow the stories on social media using #HBStories.

HOMEWARD BOUND STORIES: MERRYN MCKINNON

The year that I was going on Homeward Bound was one of the lowest points in my life. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, lacked patience and was constantly ‘on the edge’.

Yet one of the leadership diagnostics delivered in the lead-up to the Homeward Bound Antarctic voyage literally changed my life. Long before I set foot on the ship, it was through my Life Styles Inventory results, accompanied by talking it through with the psychologist, that I was suddenly able to pinpoint the two events in my life which lead me to the state I was currently in: becoming a mother, and an academic.

I was one of very few mothers that worked when my daughter started pre-school, and one of even fewer who worked full time. It was never stated explicitly but I felt judged (rightly or wrongly) for not being at home more.

As an academic I exist from contract to contract. In my desire for job security I worked as hard as I could to become valuable, useful, indispensable. And any time my contract  finished and no permanent position was offered, I believed that I needed to do more to prove my worth.

Being able to pinpoint how these two events led me to place all that pressure on myself opened my eyes to the self-destruction I was causing.

I stepped on board that ship feeling emotionally healthier than I had for years. Being surrounded by such amazing, supportive women was enriching. Hearing how all these incredibly talented, credentialed women also put the same pressure on themselves and doubted their self-worth was reassuring.

And horrifying.

I now see this self-destructive behaviour in my students, my colleagues, even starting in my own daughter. She’s nine!

That’s unacceptable to me and I will be a better role model, for her and the other women I meet.

I do a lot of workshops with women in STEMM fields and since Homeward Bound I find myself not just helping them to become better communicators, but pushing them to become better advocates for themselves and their worth.

Being a part of the Homeward Bound community has helped me find my feet and my voice.

I intend to use it.

You can read more of the #HBStories from the inaugural cohort on the HB Blog.

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