Eight Canberra women are packing their thermals in preparation for their voyage to Antarctica as part of the world's first all-female expedition to the bottom of the world.
The city is well-represented among the team of 76 participating in the Homeward Bound initiative. The program aims to increase the impact of women in science by developing their leadership capabilities while also shining a light on the impacts of climate change.
Less than 30 per cent of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics-qualified workforce in Australia is female, according to Professionals Australia, with a tiny portion of those women holding leadership positions.
CSIRO land and water division principal research scientist Deborah O'Connell described seniority as "a very lonely place" for female scientists.
"One of the things about this program that I love is about building critical mass," Dr O'Connell said.
"If you're the only woman or voice of diversity, whether it's being female or non-English speaking or whatever, it's a very tough gig and critical mass is important."
Homeward Bound has presented Australian National University PhD candidate Nina McLean with her first opportunity to work with other women in science.
"You just don't have those role models so it's really hard to even imagine yourself in that role in the future," she said.
"One of the massive benefits of this program is I'll get to meet so many different women at all different stages of their career paths, which is very important for us."
The experience has already been life-changing for Australian National University Centre for the Public Awareness of Science lecturer Merryn McKinnon.
"This process and doing a lot of the diagnostics stuff has actually helped me to get a better life balance, so to realise that the expectations I've been placing on myself and what I've been attempting to do – which has been slowly killing me and my family – it's all coming from me and I'm part of my own problem," she said.
"I wouldn't say it's necessarily a woman thing, it's definitely a 'me' thing, but because I'm a mum who works full-time I had to be good at all of the things because you feel guilty when you're not doing the other."
The crew will leave for Antarctica from Argentina on December 2 and spend the 20-day trip brainstorming strategies to fight climate change, learning about the region and receiving leadership mentoring.