International Day for Women in Maritime 2022: How the tides are turning for women in yachting

The 18th May 2022 marks the first celebration for the International Day for Women in Maritime. The day celebrates women in the industry and is intended to promote recruitment, raise the profile of women in maritime and address the current gender imbalance in the maritime industry.Women in YachtingIn 2021, a survey on diversity in the industry by She of the Sea, highlighted the disparity between female crews and their male counterparts. The team found that of 32,000 crew members, including those currently employed and those seeking work, only 28 percent were women and more shockingly, only 2.1 percent of captains were female. Jenny Matthews founder of She of the SeaShe of the Sea was founded by Jenny Matthews in 2018 after she realised she had not worked with another female in the deck department. The company has evolved to look into diversity, inclusion, innovation and sustainability in the yacht industry. “We did this data collection to guide the programmes that we build. A really big challenge we encountered though was that although these organisations wanted to be involved, only 37 percent of the 57 companies actually had this data available.”

The gender imbalance with yacht crew is quite a staggering statistic, and really highlights the key issues faced in crew leadership roles. There is a very obvious gender imbalance across all roles with senior roles facing similar issues. She of the Sea found that only one in four women in the yachting industry occupy a senior position; to break this down, 3.9 percent are chief officers, 1.9 percent are captains. Captain Kelly Gordon Across the industry there are women thriving on the challenge of changing these statistics. To put these figures into perspective, according to SYT iQ out of the 1,209 active captains, only one percent are female. One of those is the 32.2-metre Sanlorenzo motor yacht Freddy’s captain, Kelly Gordon, who was introduced into yachting by a student while working as a chemistry professor. “I was intrigued from the moment that I stepped on board. I remember remarking, ‘I can drive this thing!’ to the captain and he challenged me to return the next day!” Captain Kelly Gordon Kelly knew nothing about boats before this moment and it became clear pretty early on that she was in a male dominated industry. “I am quite determined and when I set a goal, I reach it. Before long, the men in the industry became my greatest assets and support! I think that as more and more women show up and succeed in male dominated roles it just opens the doors for other women that might need a little nudge to pursue their dream.”Women in Yachting

Although the statistics for females onboard are low, She of the Sea’s survey found that when it comes to the shore-side sector, 34 percent of Managers are female and 17.4 percent are female Directors. Despite the survey showing that the yacht crew sector is unbalanced, with more men in deck and engineering roles than women, they have instead found jobs onshore. 

Sarah Flavell, Communications Specialist at Damen Yachting knows all too well about the challenges women have faced to get to this stage. “When I joined the superyacht industry 20 years ago, the landscape of gender equality was very different. I can remember working at boat shows and being one of only five or so women at the entire event that was not a visitor. People were always very surprised to see females there, especially working, it just wasn’t part of what the industry was used to.” Amels & Damen women in yachtingThis experience is one that many women across the industry are experiencing when they first enter the world of yachting. Francesca Webster, Editor-in-Chief at SuperYacht Times, was first introduced to yachting by her brother when she was 18. “It opened many doors over the years and I fell in love with the industry and the yachts themselves.” She worked for a few years with him running charter yachts, before moving towards sailing, and eventually to her current position in the industry, at SuperYacht Times. “It still remains a highly male dominated industry, both onboard and ashore, and I think one of the biggest challenges comes when your ability or skill set is overlooked on face value for your gender – which is not an irregular occurrence.”Jenny Matthews of She of the SeaShe of the Sea’s 2021 survey found that 66.6 percent of employers have faced challenges with recruiting, placing or retaining women within the industry. “We found that when we look at common barriers that any marginalised community faces, a lot of it comes down to opportunity and access,” added Jenny Matthews.  Those same organisation’s were also asked the same question but regarding minorities, which found that 75 percent had encountered challenges. “Yachting is an ego driven industry filled with successful people, there will always be challenges no matter the gender!” says Veronica Pizza, yacht broker for Worth Avenue Yachts.veronica pizza of Worth Avenue YachtsAs She of the Sea’s survey results have already suggested, it is extremely important for us to understand the career aspirations of those in the industry, especially women. The learning opportunities absorbed during our training can set the tone for years to come. This is why it is important to recognise this indifference, as Veronica Pizza so eloquently puts it “don’t let the gender imbalance stop you from pursuing your career choice, whatever that may be!”Hannah Hombergen of Quintesse GroupHannah Hombergen, the founder and designer at Quintesse Group, an interior design company based in the Netherlands, believes the industry is adapting and that the tides are now changing for the better. “There are always challenges in this niche industry, but I see gender-related challenges decreasing over the years. Women in the industry are working more and more together, so we become stronger together. Men are not a tread for us, but an asset for our development and strength!”

So how can we become more inclusive of gender and minorities within the yachting industry? Organisations need to be looking more at their verbal and visual representation to make sure that their education, policies and practices reflect all genders and minorities. We need to be focusing on how the talent pipeline is distributed with the next generation, and how we recruit these individuals. Jenny Matthews founder of She of the SeaJenny Matthews says, “For women it is important to know that your power as a woman isn’t about how much you can be like a man, or that your power in a minority isn’t how much you can assimilate to the majority. It’s about how much you can step into your own power and be your authentic self. You can’t let your gender define you, but you also can’t cut it out of who you are. So embrace your uniqueness because it will be your power.”

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