“You can’t change what you can’t see.”
That’s the basic premise of a TedX Talk by Fabian Dattner, a renowned strategist, leadership coach, public speaker, and the founder of consultancy agent Dattner Grant. An award-winning businesswoman, Ms. Dattner has written three books on strategic leadership, and is a regular guest on ABC’s Nightlife with Tony Delroy, a popular Australian talk show.
Basically: she’s so boss at being a boss that it is literally her job to help other people be the bossest bosses they can be.
Part of that involves simply asking the right questions — which hardly sounds like a groundbreaking concept, but it’s easier said than done. She likens this to those horrible Mondays after you’ve spent the weekend binging on rich foods and booze when you suddenly decide to diet or give up drinking or generally rethink your life:
Put another way: making yourself feel better about something right now doesn’t really solve the bigger problem.
Tylenol might offer you some short-term relief, but it doesn’t address the larger issue. And even when you do see the larger issue? Fixing it is a whole other problem.
Consider the case of gender inequality. That’s been going on for a while now, right? But even after all the band-aids and Advil that we’ve thrown at the problem, there’s still a glaring gender wage gap, and women who work in scientific fields still can’t get their fair share of credit.
And sadly, the same thing goes for our planet’s ecological crisis.
What if balancing the gender voice at the leadership table was one of the most effective ways to influence environmental sustainability?
— Homeward Bound (@HomewardBound16) November 20, 2015
That’s why Fabian Dattner is leading the first all-female expedition to Antarctica…
In December 2016, seventy-eight talented female scientists from across the world will travel to Antarctica for a twenty-day intensive journey to kickoff the Homeward Bound project, which is lead and mostly underwritten by Dattner and her company. This expedition is just the first step in a planned ten-year outreach initiative that aims to establish a global network of more than one-thousand women in the sciences, and empower them to change the world.
By comparison, women only make up an average of 10% of the crews on most Antarctic expeditions. While John Davis is generally credited with being the first man to step foot on the continent back in 1821, it would take more than a hundred years for Caroline Mikkelson to do the same — and another fifty years after that before Diana Patterson became the first female to run an Antarctic station in 1987.
…But they’re not just going there to take soil samples from underneath the ice.
The first twelve days of the expedition will actually focus on leadership development and strategic planning training, followed by six days of more science-heavy stuff.
“We want to elevate the role of women in leadership in the world,” Dattner said in a video announcing the initiative. “It’s not so much that women need particular skills. They need confidence in taking a seat at the leadership table”
Dattner’s incredible mission is more than just symbolic. It’s exactly the kind of action that the world needs.
No one expects this first Homeward Bound cohort to emerge from Antarctica with all the answers to climate change and gender inequality fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus. (although perhaps that is an apt metaphor.) But what this journey does is take some crucial steps forward.
If Dattner didn’t lead the first all-female expedition to Antarctica, there wouldn’t be an all-female expedition to Antarctica. Sure, there’d be a handful of women involved in some voyages here and there. But their voices would likely continue to get lost at the leadership table. Their suggestions for solutions would freeze and die in the frozen tundra air, and future female leaders and scientists might give up before they had a chance to make a difference, simply because they never knew they could make a difference — for women, or for the planet.
So is Dattner leading this monumental odyssey “just to do it,” and say it happened? Sure. But sometimes that’s what it takes to make the rest of the world open their eyes and see the problem the right way.
In you need some more inspiration, check out Dattner’s TedX Talk below. Maybe it’ll help you look at your own problems in a different way.
And if you believe in the importance of something like Project Homeward Bound, considering donating some money to the courageous and badass women of the crew. Because changing the world ain’t cheap.