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My Homeward Bound Journey: The Beginning by Cathy Sorbara.

A little over four months ago, was the annual general meeting CamAWiSE, my first event acting as Chair. I listened to a talk by Dr. Deborah Pardo, a population modeller from the British Antarctic Survey, who was part of Homeward Bound’s maiden voyage to Antarctica last year. I heard her talk with such passion and clarity about Homeward Bound’s mission and how it has changed her life that I knew immediately that I needed to be part of this story.

Homeward Bound, she said, is a groundbreaking leadership, strategic and science initiative, and outreach for women, set against the backdrop of Antarctica.

The initiative, turned global movement, aims to heighten the influence and impact of women with a science background in order to influence policy and decision making as it shapes our planet.

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Deborah Pardo

When it launched in 2016, Homeward Bound gathered the first 76 of a targeted 1,000 women from around the world, all with critical science backgrounds, to undertake a year-long state-of-the-art program to develop their leadership and strategic capabilities, using science to build conviction around the importance of their voices. The inaugural program culminated in the largest-ever female expedition to Antarctica, in December 2016, with a focus on the leadership of women and the state of the world.

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Where do I sign up? I asked her following her talk. Serendipitously, the applications for the 2018 voyage were due three days later.

I rushed home and cleared my schedule for the weekend. I started to scroll through the online application and with each question my inner critic was pleading for me to quit. The questions ranged from Why are you suitable for Homeward Bound? To Given your science background, how do you think your leadership could influence policy and decision making? I even had to create a 2-minute elevator pitch and upload it to YouTube for their assessment.

I searched through last years’ participant videos and felt completely out of my league. These women were true leaders, leading inspirational lives. They were professors, heads of research organizations and environmental conservationists.

I, on the other hand, was a biochemist by training, I did my Ph.D. in Medical Life Science in Munich Germany and following my graduate studies, I stepped away from research. I never considered myself a leader and found the label very intimating.

Then there was the biggest catch. One of the project’s objectives is to be 100% self-funded, so not ‘not-for-profit’ and not ‘for-profit’. All women must contribute $16 000 USD. This covers the cost of being on the ship for 21 nights, hotel accommodation, faculty meetings, administration and operational contributions. On top of this, I would still need to pay for flights to our departure point at Ushuaia, Argentina.

I scrolled seemingly hundreds of times through the application and last years’ participant list, slowly talking myself out of applying. Then I saw a paragraph at the very of the application in BOLD. It said, We know women tend to only apply to positions where we feel we qualify 100%. We are here to tell you: JUST APPLY. We want women from a variety of STEM backgrounds at a variety of stages in the leadership journey. Sincerely, The Homeward Bound Team.

 

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Photo by Deborah Pardo

 

Then I started thinking of my own situation.

I am in a unique position. I am a scientist, chair of CamAWiSE and COO of the Cheeky Scientist Association, a global training platform for STEM academics looking to transition into industry. I have the ability to lead, influence and contribute to the lives of thousands of women and hopefully instill upon them confidence and encouragement to achieve their goals. My colleagues are located across Europe, Australia, India, and America, to name but a few countries. Building relationships, managing time zones and learning remote communication tools to enhance my leadership and strategical capability is not only a bonus but an absolute necessity for me to be successful in my current role and make a difference in the lives of others. I bring with me the voice of early career scientist that I counsel daily and know first hand their struggles, fears and dreams that need be heard in order to create policies to shape the future of our planet.

 

In particular, self-doubt within female PhDs is incredibly strong and inhibiting. I joined Homeward Bound to prove to those graduates that we can all be leaders and that leadership comes in many forms and from many fields.

Fryxellsee, Antarctica, Blue Ice, Lake, Mountains

To me, leadership is about finding out who you are as a person and using your gifts, your own unique attributes, to inspire others to be the best versions of themselves. Leaders do not create a vision on their own but bring together the best team of individuals that together can achieve greatness. When a great leader steps down or moves on, the team not only remains strong but can thrive due to the lasting impression of that leader and confidence she instilled upon.

Homeward Bound is definitely outside my comfort zone, which is why I am even more driven to do it.

Two weeks after submitting my application, I received the congratulatory email that I was selected out of the hundreds of women across the globe that had applied. We will be stronger together!

If you would like to support my journey, please see my crowdfunding page here: https://igg.me/at/fb1KLsOodu8

 

 

Let’s Get Quizzical: A women in STEM Quiz night

Join us!
A fun and relaxed evening of networking for women in STEM. A superb opportunity to meet other women in academia, industry, and enterprise at different career stages.

For part of the evening, we will have a fun thematic quiz night. How much do you know about women in STEM? Are you ready to win our big prize or will you be the wooden spoon?

And of course, as every year we have a special summer treat: famous Lucy Cavendish’s mini scones and strawberries & cream.

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Lucy Cavendish College
Reception rooms
Tuesday 18th July
20:00-22:00

Lucy Cavendish College is a walking distance from the City Center
There is plenty of space for your bike and free parking for attendees.

Book here!

 

 

Do you feel like an imposter? by Aldara B. Dios

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right”
Henry Ford

In front of a full and expectant room, Kate Atkin started her remarkable talk on 23rd April asking us the questions: “What do YOU want to know? What do YOU want me to answer?” that was the beginning of a great and interactive workshop about the impostor phenomenon; it’s not a syndrome – she quickly clarified – and what lies behind success.

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The audience had a lot of questions. Some of them were about how to recognise the phenomenon: What is it? Does it affect women more than men or older people than younger? Does it depend on culture or family?

Others tried to understand the phenomenon: Does it have advantages? How to avoid it? How to recognise it? we even had a sarcastic: Is it another feminist nonsense?

So, what is the imposter phenomenon? 

As Kate put it “It is an intense feeling of intellectual phoniness despite one´s success”. It happens to successful people, and although it was first detected in women in academia now men and women from all over the world experience it. People like Michelle Obama, Art Garfunkel or Robin Ince have suffered from it and some studies say that up to 70% of all professionals will or have suffered with it.

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The imposter phenomenon it is not about having doubts the first time we do something. It is about still doubting ourselves after having done something successfully several times.

How to control it?

First thing: not everything has to be perfect and we have to learn to fail. Recognise our own patterns, perhaps you think that you are successful because you’ve worked harder than other people, when in fact, you should acknowledge your our own skills and abilities. Understand that success comes from expertise and know-how.

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Do you feel like an imposter? Kate recommended focusing on your successes: Make a confidence wall with all the things you are proud of or start a success log. Take control of your thoughts, take note of the positive feedback and finally avoid the dreaded “Yes,… but”…

As always, Kate delivered an engaging and amusing talk, full of useful facts and very enjoyable.

Thank you all for coming, and thank you, Kate.

Moving from diversity to inclusion by Dawn Bonfield. Last week to book!

Spend an evening with Dawn Bonfield MBE, who will present her case on Inclusive Engineering making inclusivity unavoidable. This approach ensures diversity will follow and is sustained. The steps include embedding Inclusive Engineering into university curriculums, changing our engineering processes and practices and adopting ‘bias interrupters’.

Dawn is a materials engineer by profession having studied Materials Science and worked in the aerospace industry. Her career spans; AERE Harwell, Citroen Research Centre (Paris), British Aerospace (Bristol), MBDA (Stevenage) and the Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining (London). She was previously the President and then the first Chief Executive of the Women’s Engineering Society, which works to promote gender equality. She founded, what has become, the International Women in Engineering Day, and the Top 50 influential Women in Engineering with the Daily Telegraph.

In 2016 she received her MBE for ‘Services to the promotion of diversity in engineering’. She now runs Towards Vision, which allows her to progress her own agenda, campaign, lobby, work her own hours and pick her own projects.

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“The HeART of Mentoring” with Natacha Wilson – by Shivi Chandna

“Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.”

 The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring.

On 7th March, women from different walks of life sat around to discuss how to get the best from mentoring as a mentor and a mentee. Natacha Wilson who has an impressive career and acts as a mentor with the Foundation for Women Entrepreneurs and the Cherie Blair foundation for Women led the very enlightening workshop for the evening. Participants discussed a variety of topics such as what successful mentoring looks like, the reasons mentoring may not last and how and when to find mentorship.

 Who should a mentee seek?

A mentee should firstly recognize that they could get mentoring when they need and not wait to face adversity before seeking help.

The workshop participants discussed what qualities and skill set look for in a mentor. First of all, they agreed that careers and similarity of background are quite important. Before starting the process, ensure that there is a rapport and trust with a potential mentor, who should have a behavioral awareness to be able to understand how other people may react to a situation. It is equally important for them to have a sense of humor and great communication skills. Ideally, the mentor should be committed to learning more about mentoring and help others manage self-care.

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Natacha Wilson

Who should a mentor seek?

A mentee who has clarity of go
als of what they would like out of their mentoring experience. An important tip from experienced mentors was to manage maximum two mentees, engage no longer than six months and get feedback halfway through the process.

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What preparation can be done for mentoring?

A mentee should prepare an agenda for every meeting and have SMART goals to have a definition of success in mentorship. They should decide which area of their life they would like to discuss and set ground rules of commitment. In a meeting, the conversation should be led by the mentee with clarity on what they would like out of the mentoring experience. A mentor, on the other hand, could ask mentees to prioritize tasks vs timelines, identify the blockers, agree how to give feedback in a particular format and decide on boundaries. An employee could negotiate with an employer to find time for mentorship.

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What could happen during the mentoring process?

It is important to recognize the moments where mentors find themselves getting too attached to a mentee’s progress, feeling like it is your responsibility to help achieve the goal of a mentee and do a lot more than required.  It is vital to managing that closure when the mentorship finishes.

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Natacha Wilson

 

Towards the end of the workshop, a 5-minute speed mentoring session was held giving participants a glimpse of what the experience could be like. The workshop ended on a very positive note, listing the many benefits of mentoring. Mentors can help spot opportunities, build confidence, give impartial feedback and show broader perspectives. Mentees benefit from being listened to without interruption, can get help assessing risks and inspiration and motivation in their life. Most importantly you recognize how your life experiences can help anyone in a huge way, so get out there and get mentoring!

Do you want to become a CamAWiSE member?

Becoming a member of CamAWiSE helps us organize more events like this one and help women on STEM reach their full potential.

Full Member (£30 a year) Student (£5 a year)

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