Imagine a world where you feel like you completely belong. There is no judgement. Just an overwhelming sense of trust, respect and support. Now, think for a second how that would make you feel and how that would translate into your work and relationships. Most importantly, think about how that would change you and give you the confidence to step into leadership.
What if I told you that this world was a reality.
In January 2019, 80 women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine), from 28 countries embarked on an expedition to Antarctica, as part of their transformative leadership program with Homeward Bound (above).
And transformative it was. It has changed my life, my outlook and has given me a huge boost of optimism and strength.
During the on-board program, we had numerous occasions to voice our opinions on where we would like to see our collective efforts go, as we continue and forge new collaborations on projects that had meaning to us. One example was to develop a strategy to raise funds for Homeward Bound scholarships for women from developing nations who may be facing a financial barrier that prevents them even applying for the program (each participant is tasked with raising approx. $20,000). Homeward Bound firmly believes in diversity and inclusion and we need input and representation from women from all countries.
Another initiative was to implement a collective method of offsetting our carbon footprints, as we are all conscious of our carbon footprint and its impact on Mother Nature. We also discussed ways we can contribute to changing the gender bias that is so prevalent today, to make sure there is equal representation of men and women in leadership positions.
Our cohort set some extremely ambitious goals to make a difference in the world, but using the skills and techniques we learnt during our Homeward Bound journey, I have no doubt a group of 80 successful, smart and strong women will achieve them.
It was incredibly powerful to see 80 women in the room all stand up when we were asked, who has felt like they aren’t good enough before? That’s a 100% representation of imposter syndrome. Even though we had women from all different career stages, backgrounds, countries, ages and stages in life. Every woman has had the same thoughts at some point. But how are those thoughts helpful when they take up so much time and energy? As part of the visibility component of the program, we were given techniques and ways to combat this thinking, to be able to move forward with more positive and kind words. Something that stuck in my head from these sessions was to treat yourself like you treat your best friend – with kindness, compassion and love. You wouldn’t tell your best friend they weren’t good enough. Or smart enough to present in front of 1000 people at a conference. Or not qualified enough to go for that job opportunity. As women, we spend so much time comparing ourselves against each other. Imagine the spare time we had if we didn’t? Imagine how we could better use that time to empower and unite more women to make small changes in their thoughts and how they treat themselves.
During our three-week voyage, we spent a lot of time developing our personal strategy map, much like an instruction manual for how we see our lives. We had to bring everything we do back to our values and goals and reassessing what is important to us at our core being. What inspires us? What drives us? What difference do we want to make in the world? How do we want our relationships to be with our friends and family, and most importantly ourselves? This was a really powerful exercise to spend time thinking about the bigger picture. The direction you want your life to go, because we do have control. It also helped us realise where we were putting in time and effort to achieve some goals, but maybe at the expense of others, and it was time to reassess the balance.
We have all learnt so much during our time with Homeward Bound, and we are so excited to take what we learnt into our lives to make changes for the better good. I know I’ve always appreciated the power of strength in numbers, but now I honestly realise the impact we can have if we are stronger together.