Edinburgh Lecturer braves Antarctica “floating-conference” to boost women in science

Beth Christie   Edinburgh lecturer to join team of 80 women on an expedition to Antarctica
Beth Christie Edinburgh lecturer to join team of 80 women on an expedition to Antarctica
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An intrepid Edinburgh University lecturer has been chosen as one of only two Scottish women to take part in a month-long expedition to Antarctica.

Dr Beth Christie, who teaches sustainability education, underwent an extensive selection process for the Homeward Bound project which will see over 70 women from across the world undertake an expedition to Antarctica in February.

The project seeks to raise awareness around the gender gap in leadership positions, particularly within what’s known as STEMM – science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine – and higher education more generally.

As part of an international crew representing 13 nations, Beth is one of only two Scots who will line up with another six British women to sail from the southern tip of Argentina to the ice continent.

And so popular is the exclusive expedition that there were enough applicants to fill multiple ships.

“I applied but I thought I was a bit of an outlier – I don’t work in hard science but my whole focus is around sustainability and the outdoor environment,” explained Beth.

“This is fundamental to Scottish education and encouraging the next generation into science and giving them the skills to underpin that approach.”

As well as the intensive environment and remote location, Beth said one of the biggest challenges would be separation from her family for nearly four weeks. But it is the example she is showing to her children, Drew, 16 and Ruby, 12, that spurs her on.

“It is the longest I will have been away from them and my husband David and there is very limited contact available while we are on the ship but I know it is the right thing to do. It is important to show your children that these things are possible for both dads and mums.”

Beth added: “This is also a huge opportunity to learn from these amazing women and to work with them on this global cause.

“Our itinerary will be dependent on the weather and conditions whilst we are in Antarctica however, we do plan to visit research stations to work with the climate scientists based there.

“A major focus will be working with one another – imagine a floating conference.

“From my perspective it is about representing Scottish education and being able to talk about sustainability education on a global level with these women who are leaders in their own fields.

“It is also about bringing my experience back to Scotland and sharing this widely, with schools and in classrooms.”

Homeward Bound is a ten-year programme begun last year by Fabian Dattner, an Australian entrepreneur, to bring leading women together to network and share ideas.

The organisation said women were globally underrepresented in leadership positions and that change has been incredibly slow.

It aims to increase the number of women in executive decision-making roles by giving them leadership and strategic skills, and providing them with a well-developed support network which will enable them to contribute to policy and decisions as they work towards a sustainable future.