Authored by Kirsten Maclean


For the next 20 days I am part of a collective of 109 women from 25 countries with a background in STEMM. We are voyaging together in the Antarctic Peninsula (via the Falkland Islands/Malvinas) to bear witness to the impacts of a changing climate on the vast continent, and to learn about the climate ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.  The awe-inspiring Antarctic Peninsula will provide a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. It will prompt us to urgently consider innovative leadership approaches and to build collaborations as part of a growing global initiative of women leaders taking action for a more sustainable future.

We began this journey with an onshore leadership training session in Puerto Madryn (Argentina).  The final day of this session began with mixed energy: anticipation about embarking on the Island Sky ship; slight anxiety regarding unknown roommates; and intense excitement as our long-awaited voyage was soon to begin. To add to the buzz in the room, we heard news about the planned ‘zodiac’ (rubber boat) landings for our voyage. We also heard that, given the recent arrival of avian flu in South Georgia (which has had devastating impacts on seabird and sealion populations, and is expected to also affect seals and penguins), we should expect various changes to our itinerary for landings, to avoid transmission.

Now on board the Island Sky, our Expedition Leader has briefed us on the ‘ins and outs’ of zodiac landings and exploring Antarctica. She reminded us that, once we leave the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, the Island Sky will be in the Southern Ocean, away from inhabited lands. Our ship must be self-sufficient and ready to adapt to weather systems, as changes arise, as ‘there is no Plan B’.


two homeward bound women standing on the deck of the boat looking out to the ocean while it snows

Photo Credit: Fern Hames


For me, these experiences highlight how we all operate in the context of uncertainty as we fight for a more ecologically and socially sustainable future.  It is time for emergent and adaptive approaches to leadership; to nurture skills that encourage us to respond to rapidly changing circumstances, while also caring for ourselves, each-other and our planet. Such skills are core to our ‘Plan A’.  I’m so excited to learn from the experiences, stories, and strategies that my fellow ‘HB-ers‘ use in their leadership practice, and to share knowledge and insights into my own practice.  Over the next 20 days we will share, experiment, and hone our individual and collective leadership practices and skills, as we begin to work together to care for our planet.