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: Shelley Ball

I opened Facebook this morning and was greeted with a reminder that a year ago today I landed in Ushuaia, Argentina, a few days before the start of the inaugural Homeward Bound (HB) 2016 expedition. When I look at those photos I feel a range of emotions, from awe (I still cannot believe I was there, on a ship in Antarctica for 20 days with HB) to nostalgia (memories of so many wonderful moments, and missing the network of incredible women I connected with), and pining for Antarctica – what I wouldn’t give to be on the HB ship in February 2018.

As part of the HB Longitudinal Research Project, I was asked to reflect on my HB experiences and all that has happened in the past year. It wasn’t until I pondered the questions that I truly realized the impact of HB a year later.

The impact it has had on me as a leader, both at work (as a federal public servant in Canada) and in my role as founder and president of Biosphere Environmental Education, is that my leadership abilities have grown substantially:

  • I lead with more confidence than ever
  • I feel confident and comfortable in my decision-making
  • I’m much more able to handle conflict and adversity in a constructive way – leading to positive outcomes.

I’ve learned how much strategy really matters. Strategic thinking has become far more important and active in my current crusade to move my environmental education organization forward. But more than anything, the visibility piece of HB was huge for me. I realized that I can’t move my organization forward (or my life’s mission, which is what gets me out of bed every morning) unless people can see me and what I’m doing. I can’t achieve what I want to if I’m not on people’s radar. So I have upped my game significantly. That led to me giving a talk at a local TEDx event in September.

It was an incredible experience; the visibility and credibility it has brought are significant. And, as a photographer and storyteller, the images and stories I brought back with me from Antarctica have been important for the many presentations I’ve done in the past year. Each presentation has led to an invitation for another – a great example of the snowball effect, as I call it.

The question of how HB has impacted me isn’t actually an easy one to answer because the impacts have been both obvious, and often more subtle. After my interview with HB Research two things emerged:

  • One, I had no idea that the impacts of HB after the expedition would be so profound and far-reaching.
  • Two, I realized that I’m not even the same person who stepped onto the MV Ushuaia, with 75 other women and the HB team, on December 2, 2016.

I had no idea I’d grown so much over the past year! It wasn’t until I was asked to stop and reflect, that it all came into focus for me.

Homeward Bound truly has changed my life. It came at exactly the right time. It’s been a catalyst for me. It’s empowered me, and it’s fanned a fire that was always burning, but that fire has grown and the flames are leaping high. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings. As one of the co-founders and co-chairs of The Convergence (the HB Alumnae organization), my connection and commitment to HB remains deep. Being part of this growing collection of passionate, dedicated, and motivated women, all focused on creating a better future for ourselves and future generations, is a pretty amazing thing.