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Fabian Dattner

UAE - Health & Education

Fabian Dattner

Founder & CEO, Homeward Bound


Fabian Dattner is a leadership expert, public speaker, educator, and a regular commentator on leadership and ethical issues and the role of women in building a sustainable future. She is founding partner of the leadership consultancy Dattner Group, based in Melbourne, Australia, and of Compass, an Australian national leadership initiative for women, as well as the CEO and co-founder, with Jessica Melbourne-Thomas, of the women in Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics leadership development program Homeward Bound. Dattner and Jessica Melbourne-Thomas were named as “standout thought leaders you need to follow in 2018” by Silicon Republic in December, 2017.

TBY talks to Fabian Dattner, Founder & CEO of Homeward Bound, about the company’s history, strategizing for the future, and gender equality in the sector.

What milestones have you achieved since the conception of Homeward Bound?

We started in 2015, and I worked with two key people, Dr. Justine Shaw and Prof. Mary-Anne Lea, who were working for the Australian Antarctic division. We wanted to bring in a small team to build the initiative and then share it with people. I wrote a paper, and it went through the Australian Antarctic Division. It said it would sponsor it, but I could not get the money for endorsement. We had our first expressions of interest from other people who were interested, and within six weeks we had three times the number we could take. Then, we did our first trip to Antarctica and met a large number of scientists. That comprised 80% of the major lessons that we needed to learn to make this last. Then, the second voyage came, and it was a phenomenal success: we realized that if we work with scientists, we will get feedback. We built networks and found collaborations. For example, the Costa Rican minister of environment is a Homeward Bound alumni, as is the green representative for the environment in Scotland. We had 90 signatories to protect the marine life in Antarctica. We have a huge team working on reducing carbon emissions in ships that go to Antarctica. When we celebrated the activist day, 6 million people heard, and we got a USD50-million fund for major changes that strengthened the network.

What strategy supports the Homeward Bound network, and how do you expect to leverage it?

We built this platform to build an effective network. We replicated the Homeward Bound model in different regions. Not everyone goes to Antarctica or does the main program, but we also have many Homeward Bound offshoots. There is a big organization in Africa called We Africa and another in the Mediterranean called Earthship Systems, which is a replication of Homeword Bound. We seek to give participants the frame to act as leaders and develop leadership capabilities and skills to help them do what they think should be done. 

What leadership style is needed to achieve a sustainable future?

We are emerging from an “I” era of leadership. It was a model of leadership that is essentially a military model based on a hierarchical, male-dominated structure. We have to find a way to live on the planet together, and that hierarchical individual model is not what we need in leadership. We need leadership that comes from the heart and is in the same integration series. They must be amazing facilitators and coaches and list and represent multiple views. 

How has Acciona’s partnership supported Homeward Bound’s function, and what are the main accomplishments?

ACCIONA sponsors the Homeward Bound project since its second edition in 2018, supporting at the beginning the team of Spanish scientists and immediately extending it internationally, to fight together to place women and science in decision-making positions to achieve a more sustainable planet. 
The objectives of the project are aligned with ACCIONA’s vision. The mitigation of climate change, the promotion of STEM disciplines and the role of women in society are part of the company’s values. None of this would have happened without Acciona, and it has the manpower to make things happen. Due to this partnership, we have created an international profile. Tit has been a steady partner in the background, even during COVID-19 we still kept doing our work. Our work with Acciona will impact many generations. It is an amazing, visionary organization, committed to its work. Acciona does amazing things on the scale of the grant; it is a real relationship.

Why is science still a male-dominated sector, and how can the situation be reversed?

We are not strong on our own, and we may not be the strongest parenting with other men. Additionally, there are academic sign structures that are hierarchal. Women leave their academic degrees to have children, and then they start to slip. This is one of the changes that Homeward Bound has elevated the conversation around women globally. Still, those women know that they have each other. There are 14 WhatsApp groups from different affiliations and levels in Homeward Bound, and there are 200-300 messages there. Those conversations mean there is always moral support, activism, and news to stay updated.  Every piece matters, and it becomes part of the story. When you write this, please know that you are part of that story. I have had so many journalists who recognized that they are not just writing an article; they are writing a story about us.



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