Stepping on board Titania during the MYBA Charter Show’s Chef Competition was a unique experience. Greeted by a team of masked stewardesses, dining on board was more like a theatrical performance as each course was presented with perfected synchronisation and gravitas. Behind this well-executed team was chief stewardess Zyanya Sebastian who, at 25 years old, has had to overcome a number of barriers in the industry because of her age. Chief stewing since she was 23, Sebastian has climbed the ranks quickly, so it was interesting to learn just how she reached where she is today.
Even once Sebastian had secured a senior position on board a new yacht, she found herself faced with the same age-related prejudices. “I was chief stew when a new captain came on the boat. I really wanted to employ one candidate as our head of housekeeping; she was twenty-three and she had the experience to carry it through. The new captain refused, as apparently he did not believe in hiring anyone under the age of twenty-six. At this point I told him that I was twenty-four and automatically he saw me in a different light and our on-board relationship completely changed.”
“So many boats, if they want to keep crew, try and withhold training. I have seen it a few times on different boats.” - Chief stewardess Zyanya Sebastian
Dismissing credible candidates because of their age could create a situation in which a great deal of qualified and professional crew are unable to progress in the industry, potentially damaging the quality of crew for the future. Yet Sebastian acknowledges that age discrimination is not the only barrier she has experienced. “So many boats, if they want to keep crew, try and withhold training. I have seen it a few times on different boats,” she says. “One boat separated the service and the housekeeping departments so that there was no crossover at all. I remember when the two crew that worked in the laundry went on leave one year, I was the only member of staff in the interior staff that knew how to operate it.”
The industry cannot afford to hold back and deter professional crew. Hindering crew career progression through discrimination, by withholding proper training or any other way, is counterproductive. Leaders in the industry have a responsibility to nurture and encourage ambitious individuals in order to move the superyacht crew profession forward so that the whole industry can benefit.
This article can be read in full in issue 65 of The Crew Report.