The Leadership

A documentary review.

The Leadership is one of those beautifully crafted documentaries which juxtaposes the environment it is filmed in against the machinations of the characters involved.

This documentary is the story of the inaugural Homeward Bound leadership initiative for women in science. The philosophy is simple, create a 10 year leadership program that will engage 1000 women in science to become our future leaders. Having worked in professional development for women across a range of industries, I know that women in science and medicine are a lot more analytic and practice focussed. What I loved about this documentary is it took the team of trainers or ‘the faculty’ a few days of intense training to work this out.

This program begins with a 2 week voyage to the Antartica where women are given intensive leadership training on the ship while exploring and learning about the Antarctic. Through watching this journey you discover how science is an industry set up to suit men which has created a culture where women do not ask for a pay rise, are just thankful to have a job and suffer from imposter syndrome. The absolute sadness of this is we as a humanity are losing some of our greatest minds because they are stuck in a profession that does not respect or cultivate them. Something men would never tolerate.

That’s why Homeward Bound is so important, however from this documentary you discover like all great intentions, they have their own teething problems. As mentioned earlier, scientists are very analytical and ‘the faculty’s’ approach to leadership training was too emotive encouraging  emotional responses from women who have been taught by their peers this is a weakness not a strength.

What we uncover in this process is this is not about leadership but unpacking systemic sexism in a workforce that is in denial of sexual abuse, harassment and bullying. If I was a male scientist I would be ashamed by the experiences revealed by these women. While this is powerful stuff it is clear the facilitators were not prepared for what evolves. This very emotional journey uncovers trauma and experiences that they are not equipped to professionally deal with. It is a very dangerous space when your work unpacks sexual violence with no counsellors on for the fall out.

However rather than acknowledge this as a flaw you see the lead facilitator Fabian Dattner rebel against this. How she does it was really revealing. From what I saw it could be deemed as deflection and gas lighting of women’s feedback to the process and the course.

So while we watch this all unravel on board the ship we have the backdrop of a crumbling Antarctic. Icebergs are collapsing and frosted landscapes are receding. Mother Nature is falling apart and while we are supposed to be empowering our daughters to save her, we watch that also fall apart.

Yet while this beautifully crafted story allows for this juxtaposition we also see resolution. These women disembark renewed, invigorated and powerful. Meanwhile ‘the faculty’ battered and bruised are introspective and rebuild a professional development initiative that has grown from strength to strength. This is the story of their baptism of fire and while there are times you can not help but despair, you leave hopeful and revived.