University of Cape Town’ (UCT)’s Professor Gina Ziervogel has received the biggest accolades after she was selected to become part of the prestigious global entity that mainstreams women participation in science and technology.
Called Homeward Bound, the entity was formed in 2015 by Jessica Melbourne-Thomas and Fabian Dattner to increase participation of women working in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) and also encourage them to take up leadership roles in science fields.
Ziervogel is an ideal candidate to be part of this august body because she is an avid geographer and also an expert in climate change adaptation. Her participation would surely add value to the organisation.
Dattner said the aim of Homeward Bound is to identify and foster outstanding leadership potential in STEMM.
“When I founded Homeward Bound I believed the world needed a programme to unlock the leadership potential of outstanding women in STEMM, to upskill and support them to lead, influence and contribute to decision-making about the future of our planet,” she said.
In addition, Dattner continued: “It is also no accident that we end up in Antarctica, as it is part of the vision. It is where we can see the impact of our crisis of leadership and inaction first-hand. It is sensitive and challenging, awe-inspiring and motivating, and I can think of no more fitting experience for a group of leaders.”
Each year 100 women from all over the world are selected to join the 12-month leadership programme, culminating in a voyage to Antarctica to observe the effects of climate change from there.
Women representation in STEMM
Only 30% of global researchers in STEMM are women, according to the World Economic Forum’s studies. It said overall women still hold far fewer leadership positions, both in science and technology, compared to their male counterparts.
For instance, in the United States women currently make up 48% of the workforce but hold less than 18% of leadership roles at top tech companies. In South Africa, according to Statistics South Africa, women make up 23% of the STEM workforce.
Ziervogel will be one of 25 nationalities to join this year’s programme, and her interest lies in water and governance. During the Cape Town’s drought in 2015 she was appointed to a water advisory committee for the municipality governing the city.
Said Ziervogel, about her appointment in the water advisory committee: “During Cape Town’s recent drought I was excited to bring my years of experience in climate adaptation research to bear in my own city, contributing to looking at what actions we can take to reduce vulnerability to climate change.”
She added that she looking forward to joining a programme “which is centred around both personal development – encouraging women in STEMM to seek leadership positions – as well as a core understanding of the pressing need for scientists to collaborate to create a more resilient future in the face of climate change.”
Homeward Bound programme
The programme consists of 11 months of collaborative online learning, focusing on leadership capacity, strategic capability, visibility and collaboration. In the final month, the programme’s voyage to the Antarctic (subject to pandemic travel restrictions) includes on-board learning with all participants attending in-person lectures and workshops presented by a group of global experts in their fields.
In the past, science luminaries such as Jane Goodall, marine scientist Dr Sylvia Earle and former Executive Secretary of the United Nations, Christiana Figueres addressed the participants remotely.