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Letizia Homeward Bound

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I have been selected as a participant on Homeward Bound, the world’s first state-of-the-art leadership and strategic program for women in science, set against the backdrop of Antarctica.

I am excited to be part of Homeward Bound 2019 . I am one of 80 women from 27 countries that form the 3rd cohort of the project. We will share in a 12 month virtual and team leadership development program, culminating in a 21 day expedition to Antarctica in January 2019.

Why Homeward Bound?

Homeward Bound is a ground-breaking outreach initiative designed to reach 1000 women over 10 years, and promote women with a science background into leadership positions or enhance their influence towards the sustainability of our planet and the greater good of all people. It is designed to mobilise a global collaboration of women who have had the same experience at sea together, focusing on the leadership and planning required to contribute to the recognition of our planet as home.

It starts with a year-long collaboration, with on-the-ground learning about leadership, science, visibility, and strategy, plus of a range of critical projects. Working together on these will generate the opportunity to build teams and observe our own leadership in action.

"We are stronger together."

Over the next 12 months we will participate in collaborative projects, and leadership, strategy, science and communications training. On board the Antarctic expedition, we will have a strong focus on gender issues in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM), collaboration of the participants and a whole-of-life approach to leadership.

Supporting women in science to significantly improve their clarity, confidence, shared vision and strategic capability, will enhance their opportunity to take up leadership roles globally and proactively contribute to a sustainable world. This may help create a greater focus on the concept of a ‘global home’ – with integrity, a drive for results, an ability to motivate others, a deep care for relationships and a measurably effective will to collaborate towards this shared ambition.

See here for the Homeward Bound roadmap.

Why women in science?

Science touches every aspect of our lives and will continue to have a major and increasing impact on our future. Women are significantly underrepresented in senior and leadership positions in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM), especially at increasing levels of seniority [Source: Higher Education Research Data, 2014]. 

Although it is well documented that diversity promotes efficiency and effectiveness, in Australia women hold only 16% of qualified science jobs. Men are also 4 times more likely to hold higher end, or management roles in the science sector in Australia [Source: Office of the Chief Scientist, 2016].  

Women in STEMM fields are largely underrepresented, especially at increasing levels of seniority [1]. One of the contributors to this trend is lack of role-models for young women.

Why Antarctica?

Studies of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, and their roles in the climate system, provide critical insights into global-scale change, and the influence of human activities on environmental change. Regions of Antarctica are currently showing amongst the fastest responses to climate change seen anywhere on the planet.

Antarctica is a wild, beautiful and unique continent. It is also mysterious and dangerous. The journey there will not be easy, but making it together will create strong bonds, inspire action and lead to extraordinary collaborations.

Why me?

I am passionate about developing leadership and promoting the progression of women in STEMM, to influence policy and change. I want to develop myself into an effective and influential leader and be a role model for the next generation of women in science and technology.

I have a PhD in astrophysics, and have just completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at Monash University. I was involved in the recent groundbreaking discoveries and detections of gravitational waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years ago.

I hold a leadership position in the international LIGO Scientific Collaboration responsible for the detection of gravitational waves. The three men involved in setting up this experiment were given the Nobel prize in physics in 2017 .

"I am willing and able to lead!"

I am in a unique position to influence policy and promote change within a large international scientific collaboration that has been widely represented in the international media for its breakthroughs in physics and astronomy. With the skills I will gain from the Project I will be well placed to promote and encourage women within STEMM.

The Monash Gravitational Wave team at the time of the first detection of Gravitational Waves from colliding black holes (September 2015).

The Monash gravitational wave team at the time of the first detection of gravitational waves from colliding neutron stars (August 2017).

I have always had a keen interest and curiosity in Antarctica. Throughout my academic carreer I have several links to the ice-capped continent. My undergraduate honours project at La Trobe University calibrated an instrument for measuring the abundance and distribution  of specific chemicals in the atmosphere, which was being built to be shipped to the Mawson base in Antarctica. During my graduate studies at the University of Melbourne , I was selected from many applicants as the Science Ambassador for high school students on board an Antarctic flyover , tracking the magnetic field as we approached the south magnetic pole. I continue to be intrigued and amazed by the beauty and remoteness of this remarkable place.

On board flight QF2903, with my poster demonstrating the use of the dip circle, and my parents who came along for the ride.

View of the Antarctic north coast during the flight.

Where does the money go?

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will help me to develop my skills and confidence both as a leader and a role model. I will be better equipped to use my skills and science background to contribute to policy and decision making and to improve the state of the challenges the globe now and in the future. 

“We are taking actions with impact”

The total value of the program is US$27,000 per participant. This is generously subsidised through partners, sponsors and donors who generously contribute or donate their time or services.
However, each participant is required to fundraise US$16,000 for flights, accommodation, ship charter, insurance, clothing and administration. See here if you are interested in a breakdown of the costs.

I would be incredibly grateful and humbled by your contribution and support, and offer a modest gift in appreciation, as indicated in the rewards panel.

"Never leadership alone"

I cannot make this journey on my own and I look forward to taking you with me. Please feel free to share widely and spread the word.

Thank you for your support.



  • Jane Lai
    • $30 
    • 5 yrs


Letizia Sammut
Elsternwick VIC

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