Manchester Geographer bound for Antarctica


Through a hugely competitive international application process, Madeleine Hann, second year PhD researcher in Physical Geography, has a secured place on the prestigious global leadership program for women in STEMM.  In this interview she explains the challenges and opportunities ahead as she travels across Antarctica with women from 27 different countries which is driven by her passion to enhance equality across STEMM.

Madeleine Hann Twitter @Geomorph_Mad #HB3

Tell us about yourself and why you’re going to Antarctica?

I am a 2nd year PhD candidate in physical geography and I have been selected for a global leadership training program for women in STEMM called Homeward Bound. This New Year I will travel to Antarctica to promote women in science and leadership along with 85 other women from 27 different countries.  But it’s not just about the Antarctic expedition, in the 12 months leading up to the trip all participants learn about all aspects of leadership, from vulnerability to visibility. We do this through video conferencing (with up to 50 women at a time), coaching sessions, set reading, social media discussion and in-person meetings when geography allows!

What is Homeward Bound?

Homeward Bound is an unprecedented leadership initiative for women in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine).  The big vision is to equip 1,000 women over 10 years with the skills and network to proactively address the underrepresentation of women in global decision making. The program has four core components: leadership development, strategic capability, visibility and science communication, and science collaboration.  Homeward Bound is part of the system change needed for effective leadership and has already gained recognition by media across the world including Nature and Vogue.

Homeward bound expedition
80 women on the first Homeward Bound expedition in 2016 celebrating reaching the Antarctic Peninsula.

Why did you apply?

Having been accepted to start my PhD in SEED I knew I had a valuable skill set and knowledge base to contribute to Homeward Bound. Having seen first-hand the damage caused by sexist and discriminatory working and social environments, I have known for a long time this is an area where I want to make change. Being part in Homeward Bound will vastly increase my opportunity and ability to do this.

group in Europe
Meeting other women in Europe I will travel to Antarctica with as part of the 3rd cohort: Madeleine (bottom left), Anne (from France), Stephanie (Belgium), Daisy (Switzerland), Steph (Australia), Lorna (Canada + Scotland), and Ana (USA). 

Why women?

At all stages of education and work there are systematic, conscious and unconscious bias facing women. This is particularly apparent in science disciplines, where equality between men and women is still far off. Pure meritocracy is not enough to overcome this bias; we need to actively pursue diversity. Homeward Bound is proactively supporting women to work through these barriers and progress to leadership positions.

on board ship
Women collaborating during intense group work on-board ship on the second Homeward Bound expedition in 2018.

Why Antarctica?

It is an incredible privilege to travel to Antarctica and I do not take it lightly. Regions of Antarctica are showing the fastest responses to some of the global sustainability problems we currently face. Antarctica offers a unique opportunity to witness the effect humans have on the planet and see what is really at stake in this rapidly changing world. Decisions on climate change, pollution and natural resources are the real challenges we will all face as leaders in STEMM, and these topics will form the basis of many discussions and outcomes of Homeward Bound.

How do you fund the expedition?

I will be crowdfunding in November to raise £5,000 to get me to Antarctica to promote women in STEMM. I will be using the University of Manchester platform ‘Hubbub’ and am grateful for their support with the campaign planning so far. I have also received fantastic support from SEED SR in purchasing equipment to keep me safe and warm on the ice! Homeward Bound is also supported by several strategic partnerships including outdoor clothing brand Kathmandu and sustainable infrastructure group Acciona.

What will you gain from Homeward Bound?

As well as increased confidence, communication skills and leadership capabilities, Homeward Bound has given me a lifelong network of women as well as a platform from which to promote equality.  Looking beyond the expedition, I can’t wait to continue to share what I learn and the outputs of the program with communities here in Manchester and beyond.


Homeward Bound Project website

Madeleine Hann blog

Madeleine Hann Twitter @Geomorph_Mad #HB3

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