"Ice Queen" melts gender bias in Antarctica

Thu Mar 11, 2010 1:22am EST
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - In the 1980s, an era when women struggled to carve out their role in the corporate world, Diana Patterson overcame rejection and gender bias to become the world's first female to run an Australian Antarctic Station.

In 1987, after battling what she called "the boy's club" of the Australian Antarctic Division for almost a decade, Patterson finally headed out to Mawson Station in East Antarctica, with the nickname "Lady Di."

Patterson, who began her days as a physical education teacher, worked in welfare and conservation within the Australian government for years before she decided to take on the Australian Antarctic Division, another government body.

She applied to the panel four times before she was finally accepted at the age of 38.

Patterson, who retired from the government, now travels on the Antarctic cruises and leads tours into the camp set up by Sir Douglas Mawson's 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition at Cape Denison in East Antarctica.

She describes her journey in a recently published biography, "The Ice Beneath My Feet, My Year in Antarctica," which details life in one of the world's harshest environments.

She spoke to Reuters recently about Antarctica and why she waited 20 years to tell her tale.

Q: It took you 8 years between applying for the job and getting it. Why so long?   Continued...