It’s new year’s eve and I’m discussing gender equality in the workplace with my dad. Maybe it’s not a common father/daughter conversation, but it’s something I’ve been passionate about since my teens. I tell my dad about research studies that find when men and women review identical resumes, those with male names are recommended higher starting salaries. Other studies show that men (on average) are promoted earlier and more frequently in the early phases of their career (see here). The gap just widens the further up the career ladder you go. I suggest he read “The Wife Drought” by Annabel Crabb. My dad offers up that they have a higher proportion of female new starters at his work and genuinely asks what he can do (see here for some ideas).
We’re in Tanunda, South Australia and yesterday was my cousin Ruth’s quirky and wonderful wedding. This morning I managed to survive a run with my dad and cousin Rob (okay I trailed behind, but I went!) and we’re off to visit my Grandma in her nursing home. My Grandma is tired today, but incredibly happy to see us. She recognises all of us and is mesmerised by my cousin Rob’s two year-old and newborn. When we leave she tries to wave, even though she can hardly move her hands. My heart warms. And breaks a little.
Later that night at a new year’s eve BBQ with the wedding party and guests, my dad excitedly catches my attention and gestures for me to join him. He is watching some footage of Antarctica, recently captured by the best man at my cousin’s wedding, Dale Cochrane. My dad is keen for me to hear about Dale’s trip, because somehow it relates to our conversation about gender equality earlier in the day. Dale describes a program, Homeward Bound, which has been established for women with a background in science. And, among many things, it aims to address gender gaps in leadership especially in the science fields. At the end of the 12-month program, the women travel to Antarctica for three weeks, while learning leadership skills. Dale accompanied the inaugural 2016 expedition as part of a film crew making a documentary about Homeward Bound. Homeward Bound and the women sound amazing and the footage is awesome.
Dale tells me I should apply. I politely smile – thinking I doubt I’m what they’re looking for – but promise to look it up. I add “Homeward Bound” to my notes in my phone.
Back in Perth, I do look up Homeward Bound. The more I read about the program, the more amazing – almost unbelievable – it seems to be. It embodies many of my passions – gender equality, science, leadership, personal development and travel. I’m not sure I’m what the program is looking for, but my interest is increasing. Driving to work one morning, I hear one of the co-founders, Fabian Dattner, talk about Homeward Bound on ABC Radio National. She’s inspiring and for the first time I start wondering if they might just be looking for someone like me. I eagerly wait for applications to open, while scouring every document on the Homeward Bound website to understand the vision, values, ethos and mission.
Applications open on January 20 and the process looks daunting. A brief CV, two-minute “elevator pitch” video and a series of 10 questions with killer word limits (most are 100 words, with only two “longer” 200 word answers). I start honing my CV. And most nights when I go to bed, I write responses to the application questions in my head, before dreaming of Antarctica.
My newly-wed cousin, Ruth, is coming to Perth to direct her award-winning Fringe Show “Starman”, so I co-opt her to film my elevator pitch. Kings Park seemed like a great location – except when we get there, the wind is howling and there’s people everywhere. I’m generally not great in front of cameras…my hairdresser tells me I’m very “unphotogenic” (he claims this is a compliment – apparently, I’m much better looking in real life). And now I need to shout about how amazing I am, with half of Perth looking on. The first take isn’t great, but Ruth is patient and an excellent coach. She gets me to relax and project more. After a few takes we have something usable. I can’t thank Ruth enough – my video is infinitely better for her input.
Having completed the video and revised my CV, I start answering the application questions in earnest. Less than a week before the applications are due, I go to a talk by two of the participants from 2016. It makes me want to be part of Homeward Bound even more. I really want this. I channel my aspirations into my responses and seek feedback from my brother and some close friends. After numerous revisions, I am pleased with my final responses. On February 20, I submit my application online, with less than 30 minutes to spare. And continue to dream of Antarctica.