HER series

76 women voyage to the edge of the world to fight gender inequality

Updated 0337 GMT (1137 HKT) June 23, 2017

(CNN)There's a running joke that one has to sport a beard to conduct scientific research in Antarctica.

Except it isn't really a joke, because until the mid-20th century women were widely discouraged from exploring the continent, and the United States didn't allow American women to work in the region until 1969.
But history was recently turned on its head when 76 women with backgrounds in science set sail to the bottom of the Earth.
The Homeward Bound 2016 expedition was the largest-ever female voyage to Antarctica.
The trip was not an adventurous holiday. Nor was it a chance to slide on the ice and play with the penguins. It was part of an ambitious 10-year mission to mold 1,000 women in science to lead, influence and contribute to policy and decision-making at the highest levels.
It was about the necessary role women have to play in protecting the planet.
"We just really can't afford to have the voice of women missing at the leadership table," Homeward Bound co-founder and ecosystem modeler, Jessica Melbourne-Thomas, 35, tells CNN.
"Women bring a diversity of approaches and a whole range of complimentary skills and styles in terms of science, and leadership more generally."