From a very young age I have always loved to write in my journal, to draw, learn mathematics and science, to go for long walks and dance; to express both my creative and innovative side. I was very lucky to have a strong support system at home, where I was able to express my creativity by helping my mum with her clay sculptures, and play outside for long periods of time exploring and climbing trees with my siblings. Unfortunately not many kids today have such opportunities, in school and/or at home.
I truly believe that it was because I had time to be creative and play outside that I got to love school, to be in an indoor classroom, otherwise I would have never made it through many of my classes. I loved to learn and to see the connections between each discipline; how what I learned in science could then be expressed in art or how I could use what I learned in history to write an English/French composition.
For some reason science was the discipline that hooked me the most. In grade 9 we all had to write a paper, I don’t remember if we picked our own topic or were given one, I just remember writing about Marie Curie scientific discoveries. At the time, I didn’t really know why I was so passionate about this woman.
Now, I’m a 26-year-old woman with a degree in Applied Freshwater and Marine Biology and doing my masters on Natural Resource Management in the University of Manitoba. Lost and still hearing comments like: “Wow, this girl is actually intellegient”; “Someone most have helped you with this” and “You should not wear that, it is distracting” there was no place in science for me. With the Homeward Bound initiative I was no longer alone in this.
Where science is still a ‘boys club’ and white men are the most hirable people particular for leadership positions; where a woman with the same qualifications will not receive the same salary. I just could not stay home, finish my studies, and do nothing to change the structures of leadership.
There are many things that can limit you as a student (unfortunately we are not all in agreement that the new educational reform of Finland should be put in place everywhere) I just never thought that being a woman was still considered a limitation. This is why the Homeward Bound initiative focuses on leadership as to “change the game and not play the game” (Heidi Steltzer).
I have meet many wonderful and amazing men in leadership positions, where they listen, negotiate and resolve extremely complex conflicts. It just saddens me that, we still think that, these men are the only people that can make decisions for our future, and the world is ok as long as we have one person representing half of the world’s population. And so in most science books Marie Curie is alone, as are many women in different professions – filling in a quota.
This is not just true for women; it only happens that this is part of my story. When back in grade 9, Marie Curie was the only women scientist I could look up to, now with the Homeward Bound there is an amazing network of women scientists I can not only look up to, but also collaborate on a number of different projects.
Today I’m the only Portuguese and one of seven Canadian-based woman scientists selected to participate on the intensive leadership, strategy, communication, innovation and emotional intelligence training that took 76 scientists on the largest all-female expedition to Antarctica in December 2016. Tomorrow I’m hoping to be yet another passionate scientists that helps pave the way for young women and girls to continue their studies in fields dominated by men.
“Don’t be afraid, you are not alone” – my message to you and also something I have to tell myself every one in a while.