More than 100 people attended the West Midlands Institute of Directors Women as Leaders annual lunch – where they were treated to a presentation about the Ice Maidens.
Expedition Ice Maiden saw a group of six women becoming the first all-female team to ski coast-to-coast across Antarctica using solely muscle power.
Ice Maiden Major Sandy Hennis shared her experiences with the audience at Birmingham’s Opus Restaurant.
Maj Hennis, a Reservist officer with 37 Signal Regiment based in Redditch, was chosen from 250 candidates for the gruelling challenge which saw the team pulling sleds of more than their own body weights on a 1,704km trek.
Beginning in mid-December and finishing on 20 January 2018, she told how the women faced 100km strong winds, temperatures of minus 56 degrees centigrade and the risk of frostbite.
Maj Hennis, of Cannock, shared the lows which included the trek being delayed 15 days because of bad weather and her succumbing to what she termed ‘man flu’ for a few days. And she also shared the highs which included the group reaching the South Pole and achieving their ambition to cross the world’s wildest continent.
She was joined at the IoD event by Sergeant Victoria McIndewar and Lieutenant Colonel Rachel Emmerson who also trained for the expedition. Maj Hennis showed films of the training which included plunging into freezing water and falling into crevasses so the group could practice rescuing their colleagues.
Admitting to a fear of falling, Maj Hennis told the audience she was terrified of the crevasse training but she also explained how she conquered her fear.
“What got me through was not wanting to let the team down,” she said. “It’s amazing how much we can push our minds and our bodies when we have to.”
Maj Hennis insisted the team were ‘just normal women’ and urged the audience to follow their own dreams.
“My message would be not to let anything hold you back if there is something you have always wanted to achieve,” she said. “We all have personal challenges which we put off and put off but now is your chance to do it. I would say to everyone – ‘What is your Antarctica?’”
And she also stressed the importance of teamwork, describing how the group shared roles and supported each other through the difficult times.
“It was absolutely teamwork which meant we achieved our goal,” she said. “And interestingly when we came back we were all asked the best thing about it and none of us said seeing the South Pole or reaching our destination – we all said it was the teamwork, the sense of belonging, achieving something together.”
The 100-strong audience is the largest for the annual dinner which is now in its third year and was sponsored by Investec. Women as Leaders committee member Jackie Casey said: “The talk demonstrates that we, as women, have incredible potential and it’s often our own thoughts and fears which hold us back.
“It also demonstrated that we can do whatever we set our minds to as long as we have the right team, training and the environment. Having heard Major Hennis speak, it would be difficult not to be inspired in both your business life and your personal life.”
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