In celebration of International Women’s Day, we speak to some of the inspirational women who are making waves across the yachting industry.
From Yacht Captain and Chief Officer to Managing Director and Company Founder, our eight women share some of their experiences of working in the yachting industry, some of the barriers they’ve had to overcome and how they have risen to the top of their game
Georgina Lindsay is a Chief Officer, having successfully made the move from the cruising world to the yacht industry about five years ago.
Prior to yachting, Lindsay completed a commercial cadet ship with Carnival UK and sailed with P&O Cruises, as it appealed to her desire to travel the world and not be stuck behind a desk her whole career.
Lindsay says: “Going into my career, the fact that it was a male orientated job never bothered me. It wasn’t that progression was due to you being a male or a female, it was due to being a hard worker, putting in the time and effort to your end goals.
And though Lindsay has had her fair share of gender stereotyping, she says this has never come from the people she’s worked with, or seafarers themselves.
“I’ve been called to the passarelle on a few occasions,” she says, “to contractors, vendors or agents who have said to me, ‘sorry I asked for the Chief Officer not the Chief Stewardess’.”
Lindsay cites role models such as Jenny Matthews of She of the Sea and Captain Kate McCue for encouraging diversity within the industry.
“Over the next 10 years, we can build on their example to show women out there that being Captains and Chief Engineers is possible,” she says.
Malia White is a Bosun on the 50m yacht ARBEMA. Following experience as a dive guide and deckhand on a small dive boat, she also moved into the yachting industry about five years ago.
White says she chose yachting as it allows her to be around the water and her favourite part of the job is the fact that she is constantly learning something new. White’s greatest achievements so far are cruising through the South Pacific and working towards her next tickets – her Officer of the Watch (OOW) ticket and USCG Master 500 ton.
White says: “When applying you’ll see hundreds of deck jobs offered but if the position is open to a female they usually have to specify ‘male or female welcome to apply’, which then drastically narrows the search.
“You see a lot of ‘male only due to cabin arrangements’ jobs, which doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t hire a female, but that it does take a bit more planning/rearranging to get a female deckhand onboard.”
But things are changing, White says: “We are seeing more girls working on deck as well as more guys working on the interior. I think with the younger generations the divide will continue to close.”
And White has this advice for women looking to move into yachting: “Don’t question your place, know that if you want to excel in a certain position then there’s a place for you. Regardless of gender, if you’re good at your job then you deserve the position.”
For so long we’ve been used to hearing male names when it comes to yacht designs, but finally a few good women are paving the way for others.
Pascale Reymond is one half of Reymond Langton, the yacht design company she formed with her partner Andrew Langton in 2001 after years of designing superyachts.
Reymond’s career in the industry began in 1989 when she started doing some buying for a yacht designer and soon decided that she too would like to be a designer.
Reymond reflects: “I never considered my gender, I just valued myself as an interior designer, but back in 1989 I definitely had to push myself more than my male colleagues to be noticed and valued,” she says.
Having launched her own business 20 years ago, Reymond is proud of its success and also of the fact that the company’s workforce consists of 75% women in the studio.
But, she admits, it’s not always the case in the industry: “There are more women coming forward,” she says, “but unfortunately, in 10 years’ time, the gender divide will still be there, as this is the nature of the world at present and it might take a century to fix.
“There is a huge number of women in the yachting industry already, it is more a question for them to get the top jobs. I hope my contribution in the yachting industry will make a difference for the younger upcoming generation,” she says.
As Reymond says, it’s important we get women in the top jobs, so step forward Rose Damen, Managing Director of Damen Yachting, the team behind some of the world’s foremost explorer yachts.
“I have grown up surrounded by shipbuilding,” Damen says. “My love of boats and the experiences these open up, stem right back to my childhood. We spent many hours out on the water.
“My father, Kommer Damen, even decided to fulfil a lifelong dream by taking a leave of absence from work to embark upon a sailing trip around the world with us in tow!”
So, it’s fair to say that yachting, in one form or another, has always been part of Damen’s life. However, before joining the family business, Damen chose a different career path, working in finance in London and Asia for several years.
But those early years certainly had a profound effect: “The sailing trip my father took us on during my childhood was an experience that made a huge impact on me. It wasn’t just the beautiful destinations, but it was spending that quality time with family. The excitement of discovering new places and the opportunities to enjoy unique and special moments together. These are qualities I believe the yachting industry is all about and certainly triggered my interest in being part of it.”
And Damen has never let gender stereotypes stand in her way when it comes to pursuing her career: “I have always focussed on diversifying my own knowledge, experience and skills. I believe that strength lies in diversity in all forms – personally, commercially and collectively – and it is key when we look at modern yachting,” she says.
And Damen practises what she preaches, with the management team at Damen Yachting now 50:50 male: female.
“I’m proud that Damen Yachting is leading the way,” she says. “Our efforts are appreciated by our clients. I’m inspired by several pioneering female Amels and Damen Yachting owners, who all smashed stereotypes during their careers. In our own small way, our efforts are also contributing to greater social equality in the world. I hope that diversity – in all forms – will continue to grow and develop over the next decade and beyond.”
After working in the fashion industry for many years, Sabrina Monteleone-Oeino followed her one true calling, combining her knowledge of fabrics with her eye for design, to set up one of the most sought-after interior and outdoor design studios in the industry.
Sabrina Monte Carlo is a family business, with Sabrina’s sister, Sophie, as chief interior designer, and her two daughters, Manola and Carla, respectively interior and graphic designers.
And why did Monteleone-Oeino choose this industry? “I chose it because I was passionate of course. Women are definitely very organised, and I believe we have a certain aesthetic sensibility. However, the yachting industry is generally male dominated, so we all had to work extra hard to be where we are now.”
Monteleone-Oeino says that she has learned valuable lessons from each of her projects but that the creative side is always her favourite part.
But being a woman in the yachting industry does present its own challenges: “I would say we need to be tougher while in male-dominated environments, in shipyards for example where we are often the only women.”
And though changes have come, Monteleone-Oeino would like to see more women step forward: “We hope more and more women will be involved. I already see that on the design/supply side, less on the technical/shipyard side. There are more than 35 women in my company, so I definitely work toward lessening that division,” she says.
With 19 years under her belt in the yachting industry – and many years before that working in shipping and maritime insurances – Sylvie Bredy comes with a wealth of experience, but her first foray into the industry was more accidental than deliberate.
“It started with a temping mission for one of the leading yacht repairs shipyards in Marseille,” she says. “I was the Office Manager/Technical and Sales assistant there. I was supposed to stay for two months and stayed for 13 years in the end.”
Bredy’s years in the shipyard prepared her well for a future in the industry. “When you are working in a shipyard, you are bound to be confronted by gender stereotypes, whatever your background or your experience is,” she says.
“In my early shipping career, a lady who was running her own business in Tunis told me: ‘In a man’s world, you need to be the best, otherwise you are nothing’.
“This is like a mantra to me. Not that I pretend to be the best at what I am doing but I am surely thriving at being a better yacht manager and a better person every day.”
Bredy clearly loves her job: “My best achievement so far is to sit in the position I have today with Edmiston. I feel extremely lucky about my job and about having the opportunity to look after some amazing assets.
“There is no routine in the Yacht Manager job, no day is the same as the one before, and every day is a school day. That is what keeps me going.”
And while she has proven herself well in her chosen career, Bredy is aware that it can still be a tricky industry for some: “Although I have seen a slow evolution over the last 19 years, I think that yachting is still an industry where it is difficult for a woman to demonstrate her leadership,” she says.
“Mentalities are slowly changing. There are more women on yachts in positions that used to be for males only . And look at the management department at Edmiston – only women!”
So, what would her advice be to other women who want to follow her path? “Stop admitting that there are gender stereotypes is the first step to beating gender stereotypes,” she says.
“I would encourage young women to learn and progress. Keep learning because knowledge is power. People will come to you because you are knowledgeable and reliable, never mind whether you are a man or a woman.”
Alida Dalmazzo – Auckland is the sole chef on a 50m private boat, with an international crew. In her six years in the yachting industry, she has worked in the Med, Thailand, and various countries in the Middle East for about two years.
“I chose to become a yacht chef because despite having a previously successful career I was not very happy. I had some friends who worked in yachting, so I took my courses, exams and decided to start an entirely new career.”
Since then, Dalmazzo-Auckland has worked for royalty and diplomats and been able to learn how to cook international cuisine in some incredible countries she otherwise would never have travelled to.
However, Dalmazzo-Auckland believes the exciting and unpredictable lifestyle, which includes being away from home for long periods of time, makes it harder for women to work in the industry than it does for men.
“Traditionally, ask any top male chef, the women in their lives have provided them with the opportunity to succeed. They are raising the kids, running the household, etc so the men can concentrate on just their work. It is a luxury to have someone in the background giving you space so you can pursue your goal and still have a family,” she says.
“I am single, have no children and this is the only way I can do this job. If I did, I don’t believe I would personally want to stay away from them for months on end. This is a big price to pay as a female chef working on a boat.”
But Dalmazzo-Auckland believes that “if you are really good at what you do and have a likeable personality, which is very important on boats, you can be any gender in any role and you will find employment.”
For some, gender stereotyping began young. Mascia Poma used to beg her father to take her sailing with him each summer, but the answer was ‘NO’.
“He kept telling me that women don’t go to sea, no woman has ever worked on a fishing boat. It was 1989!”
But determination and true grit served well for Poma. She worked on her mother, who convinced her father to take her to sea and then spent the next seven years working for him.
After her dad sold the fishing boat in 1996, Poma, together with three other people, built a 33m fishing boat and then a small marina. Poma says: “Every summer I was mooring an average of 80 tenders a day. In August 2000, in my home village, Calasetta, a small village in Sardinia, a yacht arrived. It was the first time I’d ever seen one.”
That was it. Poma was hooked and took a seasonal job in yacht marketing. From there she worked her way up, through many roles, qualifying as she went.
Poma says after her first season as a stewardess, the captain called her about working the following one and her answer was: “I will never watch the sea from a porthole.”
It was her quick thinking on deck one day, in which she used a fender to stop a yacht from crashing into a pier, that caught the attention of the Owner who gave her the opportunity to work as a sailor and in 2007 she became captain of M/Y BLEU DE NIMES.
Poma says: “If you decide to work on deck you cannot say ‘I cannot do that because I am a woman’. I never refuse to do a job on board. It is not sufficient to be like a man, you have to do better or for sure they will employ a man – not because the captain and owners are chauvinist, but because they worry that if you are not strong enough, they’ll have to replace you during the season.”
However, Poma is optimistic about the future. “I think the yachting world is getting more progressive,” she says. “For sure over the next 10 years we will see more women working on deck. When I started, we were a very small bunch of women on deck, now it is more common to see a woman sailor and I am proud of that.”
08 March 2021
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