Sailing towards equal industry
- Posted by Ed Ewer
Sailing towards an equal industry
Traditionally the maritime industry has been male-dominated. Although the number of women gaining education and training in the maritime sector has increased over previous years, their engagement, retention, and promotion to leadership in all areas has diminished.
The central focus of diversifying the maritime industry is without a doubt gender and race. According to a recent survey by ‘Yachting Pages’ of 32,000 crew members (including those currently employed and those seeking work) only 28% are women. Additionally only 2.1% of captains are female. As a young woman myself starting up in this industry, you can imagine how disheartening these figures are to read.
Some tend to class sailing as an ‘elitist sport’, to many growing up it simply wasn’t an activity you could afford. In some areas a beginners course (3 days) can range from £350-£400. For those fortunate enough to start learning at a young age, you can imagine how impressionable a male-dominated sport can be. In my own experience, our group of 25 students there were only 3 girls and all the instructors were male. Even at the boatyard where I took my lessons, there were no female workers, no woman in a position of seniority and even the boatyard itself was owned by a local man.
I am sure many will agree but without persuasion or example, it is hard to see yourself progress and become successful in an industry with little to no female role models. A prime example is Victoria Morris, a sailing instructor at the Russell Coutts Sailing Foundation in New Zealand. Although she rose up through the ranks to where she is today, this did not come without being constantly undermined, overlooked and even her skillset questioned (when in fact Victoria would usually be more knowledgeable and experienced than the men she was sailing with)
In the past there was definitely a stereotype around yacht owners, for example many would refer to them as the ‘Billionaires boys club’, which in itself can define what you consider your average owner to be. Nowadays the number of ultra-high-net worth women, female superyacht owners and women chartering superyachts continues to rise. These self-made businesswomen and entrepreneurs are amazing role models who can provide a platform to inspire other women to feel empowered in such a male dominated industry.
Via social media there are many different platforms where women in the industry can share their stories. They can encourage others to join and offer advice for anyone struggling in yachting. I really admire the people who are able to share their personal experiences, whether they are good or bad you get to see both sides of yachting. It is important for anyone joining the industry to feel supported and that everyone has a fair and equal opportunity.
During my research for this article, it was really empowering to see how many women have spoken up about this topic. Seeing the struggles and obstacles they have faced to get to where they are now, only encourages you to work that much harder and enjoy it that little bit more.
Although times have changed and the percentage of women in the Maritime and Yachting Industry have increased dramatically, we still have a long way to go.
However I am personally excited to see how this continues to develop and grow into an diverse and inclusive industry.