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

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

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.

In 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.

She 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.

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!”

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.”


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