Why I am going to Antarctica

A journey to break the glass ceiling

Cécile Godde is a PhD student with CSIRO and the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Science(QAAFI) at The University of Queensland.

Cécile is studying sustainable grazing system intensification and is passionate about creating a healthier planet, but realises gender bias is still an obstacle for women in science. This passion has led Cécile to take part in a once-in-a-life-time experience, the Homeward Bound initiative, which involves an expedition to Antarctica.

Image: Map of the world showing grass biomass, produced by PhD student Cécile Godde

I want to make a change for a healthier planet

I graduated in 2014 in France, my home country, with a master’s degree in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. I am currently a second year PhD candidate at CSIRO and QAAFI at the The University of Queensland.

Prior to starting my PhD, I worked for CSIRO, Greening Australia, the International Livestock Research Institute in Costa-Rica, MARS Inc. in Brazil, and the French governmental agency for organic agriculture, Agence BIO, in France.

I decided to do a PhD as I saw that it would enable me work internationally and take on greater responsibility in my career. I work on sustainable grazing systems intensification and I love it!

Although my PhD has a strong focus on agriculture, it incorporates many disciplines and areas of research: biodiversity, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, animals, food security and human livelihoods, socio-economics, and policies.

Research, contrary to what many people think, is not all about doing some mystical calculations behind a closed door. In my research, I meet and collaborate with a lot of people, learn new things every day, write, design communication tools, give talks, interact with media, and travel.

It is a very exciting time to be a woman in science.

Opportunities do arise but far too slowly, and prejudices are pervasive. This is a considerable issue as we cannot address our environmental issues without solving gender inequalities.

Research and agriculture is a male-dominated sector, and this sad reality gave me a strong desire to make things change.

Mother Nature needs her daughters

Photo: William Bossen

I have the incredible opportunity, together with 79 other women from all around the world, to take part in a worldwide and world-class leadership, strategic and science initiative and outreach for women: the Homeward Bound initiative.

Over the next 10 years, the program aims to heighten the influence and impact of 1000 women with a science background in order to influence policy and decision-making as it shapes our planet.

Homeward Bound includes a year of leadership, strategic and communication training, culminating on a three-week voyage to Antarctica!

Why Antarctica? Antarctica is the frame or backdrop for the initiative. Women were widely discouraged from exploring the continent until the mid-20th century, and the United States prohibited American women to work in the region until 1969.

Antarctica is the last true wilderness on the planet, a precious and unique beauty. It is also an extremely fragile natural world, a critical barometer of our planet’s health and of our society’s behaviour and decisions. The ice is melting at very fast rates, so well past the time to act together for a more equitable and sustainable future.

This journey is going to be extremely enriching and intense: 80 women from 13 different countries and from all ages, in a confined environment for three weeks, questioning our society and questioning ourselves. Most of us will be out of our comfort zone. I am really looking forward to this experience and to the lively discussions we will have about how we can collectively make a change for a better world.

Follow Cécile's Homeward Bound journey