Meet Dr Emma J King from Homeward Bound 8: a neurodivergent science communicator, space enthusiast and entrepreneur with a background in physics and a passion for wildlife and conservation. Dr King graduated top of her year in astrophysics and become the first woman to win Student of the Year in the UK Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year awards. She was one of the top 2% of candidates in the 2021 European Space Agency astronaut selection process.
What are you most proud of in your current work/project/life?

I have a pretty diverse career and usually have several very different projects on the go, but whatever I’m doing I am always pleased when I have the opportunity to encourage young people, especially young women, to explore STEM subjects.

Last year I was delighted when my position as an ESA Astronaut candidate gave me the chance to participate in the Positive Footprints Raising Aspirations program to inspire young people from a variety of backgrounds to follow space-related careers.

As someone with ADHD and Dyslexia I also always look for opportunities to raise the profile of neurodivergent people in STEM, and was recently interviewed by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs for their “Space +: Pathways for all abilities” interview series, a project I am very excited to be involved in.

Please share a few of your personal motivations, everyday life, and daily routines.

I love a challenge, enjoy learning new things, and am motivated by the opportunity to solve interesting problems, which has led me on an exciting and very diverse career path.

Although naturally an early riser, I can find it hard to settle into the day so I like to start my morning with a little yoga, outdoors if the weather allows.

It might only be 10 minutes, but I find it provides very valuable space for gathering my thoughts and setting intentions for the day, as well as having a good stretch and boosting my energy.

What is some of the best leadership advice you have been given/seen/read … and/or that you have to offer personally?

Leadership is not about micromanaging and telling people what to do, it’s about sharing a clear vision and creating an environment where people are empowered to work together towards a shared goal, in the way that is best for them.

Diversity of all kinds is key to creativity and innovation, which are vital for problem solving, so it is imperative to ensure diverse voices are heard and create a culture in which they are valued.

What are the key issues in your field that need addressing with visible female leadership?

A significant problem in Physics, as in all traditionally male-dominated fields, is that a lack of female leadership is a self-perpetuating cycle.

A lack of visible role models leads to discomfort with female leadership, which manifests as both disrespect from others and imposter syndrome in women who step into leadership roles.

This contributes to the high drop-out rate of women at higher levels in these fields, leaving the next generation without visible female role models in leadership positions.

This cycle needs positive action, such as the Homeward Bound initiative, to break it. 

Emma J King

How do you feel that Homeward Bound can help you to become a more effective leader and what are your hopes for your participation?

I have been in leadership positions for much of my career, by necessity rather than by desire, and yet I still find assuming leadership roles to be daunting, and I prefer to let someone else take the lead if that option is available.

Nonetheless I know that to achieve my goals I am going to need to assume more leadership roles, not less.

I’m hoping that through my participation in Homeward Bound I will gain increased confidence in my own ability to lead, increased tolerance for the discomfort it brings, and of course an amazing network of peers I can count on for support when it inevitably gets tough.

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