Elaine HuberHere at Futures we know you well from your time at IML. Tell us about your current role and what you’ve been up to since moving over to the Faculty of Science.

In the Faculty of Science, I lead a small team of learning designers working on strategic faculty learning and teaching projects such as learning.futures, integration of the indigenous graduate attribute and revising all current GAs. I run workshops and information sessions on initiatives like peer observation and open book exams, developing resources and examples of good practice. I really enjoy supporting my academic colleagues to integrate new innovations in their teaching and helping them gather evidence for promotions and awards.

You’re about to embark on a new project with the Homeward Bound leadership initiative. What is the project about?

Homeward Bound is a groundbreaking leadership initiative for women with a STEMM background. It aims to increase the leadership capability of women, and enhance their influence and impact on the policy and decision making which shapes our planet. Homeward Bound emerged in recognition of the lack of women in leadership, both in STEMM specifically and in leadership generally, and how this has an impact on our planet. The 12 month program will provide us with leadership, strategic, visibility and communication capabilities to help promote women into decision-making positions affecting policy around the sustainability of our planet. It culminates in a 3 week expedition to Antarctica. Antarctica is not the focus, but the picture-frame for Homeward Bound, it represents the relative fragility of the natural world, but it is also an environment that can provide us with a lot of information about what’s happening on a global scale. Antarctica provides us with early warnings about climate change. Antarctica is also a spellbindingly beautiful and largely unseen part of our world. It inspires both awe and commitment, and provides the perfect environment needed for immersion in a program like Homeward Bound.

A big part of the project is encouraging women to step forward as leaders in STEMM, as women are globally underrepresented in these roles. How did you get involved, and did you have any hesitations about applying?

UTS is a Workplace Gender Equality Agency Employer of Choice and has recently adopted the Athena Swan Charter and my participation in the Homeward Bound Program aligns nicely with this. I first heard of the Homeward Bound program through my involvement in the Women in Science Network. When I read about their vision and the program I really wanted to apply but when I looked at the profiles of previous participants (there have been 2 cohorts already and the third is underway) my initial reaction was ‘I’m not good enough’. I honestly thought they were looking for scientists doing environmental research. I struggled with some of the selection criteria but after chatting with a colleague and a couple of female friends, they gave me the encouragement I needed to tell my story and give it a shot. Part of the application was to make a 2 minute video pitch ‘why me’. I don’t mind being in front of a camera but it was tough getting my message across in just 2 minutes (watch the video here).

What has your experience of being involved in STEMM been like over the course of your career?

I studied Electrical Engineering at University and was one of 4 women in a cohort of about 120 students in my undergraduate degree and one of two women of 24 students in my Masters degree. From the statistics I observe today, women make up about 12% of undergraduate student cohorts in engineering, so not a lot has changed in 30 years. I worked for Unilever as an engineer and the story was similar there. In fact I eventually left the field of engineering because (looking back) I had no mentors or role models to encourage or support me in the early part of my career. I couldn’t see a path forward. I moved into education and then into academia about 14 years ago and during that time have worked with staff from many disciplines supporting them in their use of learning technologies and curriculum design. It feels fitting that I now work with scientists and engineers because I think like them and can relate well to them.

What are your hopes and ambitions for the Homeward Bound project?

I am hoping that I can build my visibility and raise awareness of this gender equity issue for the benefit of our future generations. I want to inspire, support and mentor young women making their way in or towards a career in STEMM. Female leaders are shown to have a strong legacy mindset and are more trustworthy when making decisions around money, resources and assets. I hope to act as a guide for others to become these STEMM leaders by highlighting the paths they can take and the others out there willing to support them. I will be travelling to Antarctica with 95 women from across the globe, so I’m very excited about the networks, the partnerships and the opportunities for collaboration that lay ahead.

How can readers get involved and stay in the loop for your journey?

The program is only partly funded and so I have made a commitment to seek financial sponsorship/donations to achieve my fundraising goal of $23,000. I endeavour to raise these funds through a variety of channels, including:

You can read more about my involvement with HB4, and follow my journey on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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Feature image by henrique setim.

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