The superyacht industry is one where each department, whether deck, interior or engine room, is heavily dominated by a particular sex. In issue 78 of The Crew Report we speak to crew of all levels working in departments where they’re the minority, and ask whether the industry is doing enough to put a person before their gender.
“Look at any advertisement for yachting,” first mate Natasha (who requests we don’t use her last name) tells me. “The girls are always stews, occasionally they’re the chef or a deckie once in a while. The boys are everything else, or anything except stews.”
Deckhand: male. Captain: male. Engineer: male. Stew: female. These are the parameters the superyacht industry is setting based upon the demographic trends of our on-board departments.
“I have seen a lot of bullying of girls on deck since I have been in yachting." - First mate
For some captains, having females in male-dominated departments is beneficial in its very nature. “Almost without exception I have found a very high level of professionalism among females borne, in part, I believe, from the fact they have to be better than their male counterparts to be able to succeed,” admits the captain of a 90m-plus superyacht. “Fair? Probably not. But certainly in deck officer roles some of the most conscientious and hard working officers I have sailed with have been female.”
“My [senior] chief engineer and I never set out to ‘create a space’ for female engineers. We hired the best available candidates at the time, and on three separate occasions, over a space of about five years, the best candidates happened to be female,” says Adrian O’Neill, captain of motoryacht Oasis, whose engineering department of three is two thirds female.
There are two quite clear benefits to having a male in this typically female department. It will often – not always – help when it comes to heavy lifting or reaching things at a height. The second is one that is arguably often overlooked, and is something the industry has certainly had problems with in the past. “I was chosen by the owner of our boat, because they realised for a charter boat it is safer to have a boy than a girl on late service when you are alone with all the gentlemen,” admits steward Sebastien Monnier.
One account in particular, from a female first mate, is troubling. “I have seen a lot of bullying of girls on deck since I have been in yachting, on one boat after another. The girls just shrug their shoulders, but the issue is when you move up the ladder – you’re in a senior role and you need people’s respect. I won’t say it’s been easy for me, resulting in me being very defensive and frustrated, and I’m still learning how to deal with this. I think I have been very naïve these last few years. The reality is that it is extremely difficult.”
Find the full article in issue 78 of The Crew Report - download now.