Women in the Yachting Industry

Teresa Carey Words 22 Comments

Dear Ms. Kate Lardy,

Recently a friend gave me an April 2010 copy of Dockwalk, thinking I might be interested as my career and passion is with the sea. After perusing one issue, I was extremely disappointed by the representation of women captains among its pages. Especially page 21-24, the “Dockshots” and photos of crew attending the Miami Boat Show. With only two exceptions, all the captains, mates, deckhands, and engineers were male and all the chefs and stewards were female. Even the advertising on the page inserted among these photographs (page 23) depicts the females in secondary roles. Does Big Blue Yachtwear make women’s shirts with four stripes on the shoulders? This is surely not an encouraging representation of an industry for people like me; women leaders who are looking for career advancing opportunities.

I was especially surprised to find that the four named editors on the “Dockwalk” website are all women. Undoubtedly you could have found a few female captains at the Miami Boat Show to photograph for your magazine, thereby not bolstering the general assumption that one should only hire a male captain. I am aware that there are less female captains in the industry. I would hope that a magazine led by women editors would do everything they can to encourage other women to become leaders as well.


Capt. Teresa Carey

Comments 22

  1. Bryan

    You’re the one out there with the machete, clearing the path for those behind you. Journalists are just going to follow the storyline they are assigned, so I do see your point, but I’m sure it never crossed their mind.

    But you didn’t need confirmation or encouragement to follow your dream, and that’s what leadership is all about. I don’t personally know any captains, but I feel it’s pretty safe to assume both the men and women captains share a trait that won’t let anyone stop them from their goals.

    It’s not like the chefs want to be captains and can’t, I think they’re probably a chef at sea because that is what they wanted.

    So maybe you can talk them into writing a new article that focuses on careers and opportunities, and let them help you with that trail you’re blazing. Good luck Captain! 🙂

  2. austin

    I love your blog, but have to disagree with you on this.

    Would a deluge of female-empowering pictures in a magazine really persuade young women to engage in nautical endeavors? Maybe your efforts would better serve the cause by requesting that the magazine sponsor scholarships established for young women interested in sailing, rather than chastising editors for a lack of pictures. Maybe there really were no female captains to be photographed at this event? If there were not any, would there be a benefit in misrepresenting the actual ratio of male/female captains, deck hands, mates, etc. for the sake of political correctness?

    I think that we can all agree that by and large, more men are interested in boating than women. That is not a good or a bad thing, it just is. Chalk it up to evolution, whatever. Can you imagine a disgruntled man writing a letter to Avon for not featuring more male sales people?

    While I am all for equality, I feel that political correctness has been taken to an extreme-in all facets of our society. I don’t feel that editors should be guilted into manipulating pictures of the boating scene any more than I think that colleges should go out of their way to put a black or hispanic kid on a brochure.

    I hope that I do not step on any toes here, it just struck a chord in me this morning. I do love your blog, and feel like what you are doing here is MUCH more empowering than any politically correct photo collage could ever hope to be. Women like YOU are paving the way for future generations, but not through magazines or asking for fairness- you are doing it every day through your actions. You are doing it by being a knowledgeable and competent steward of your vessel. You are doing it by nailing interviews and through your knowledge of salty knots!

    Keep it up!

  3. Mark

    I think it’s a mix of issues. For one, there are a lot of areas and fields that are dominated by one sex or the other. Get into horses and horseback riding and you won’t see many men in that sport outside of owning businesses that cater to it. Men leaving the teaching profession in droves is another example.

    But on the flip side there is definitely lingering stereotypes out there. If you’re a young cute girl you can expect a bit of a condescending attitude or an air of “oh, you can’t be expected to handle that” in quite a few areas of life. Who wants to deal with that? It can create a barrier that many women won’t climb past.

    The only real solution is for some women to break past that and prove that, yes, they can handle that just fine, thank you, and not just change opinion but also be a strong role model for others.

  4. Rick Patton

    Teresa, I have to agree with Austin on this one. I have grown attached to you and your writing over the past few months and respect you and your accomplishments. I don’t feel that article showed women in lesser rolls as a matter of fact I’m a good cook and I don’t think the men and women I led minded that I could cook when we were in the field. I think you assumed, they didn’t like there rolls. I didn’t see one picture were anyone appeared unhappy with there position. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear most of them say they have the best job in the world. I can’t sit here and say that no one in this world isn’t biased. I can say while working as a Security Policeman in the Air Force I worked with some women I would trust my life with and some that I wouldn’t. and same with men…. Sorry I’m going to miss the journey. I think we would have had some good conversations.


  5. Post

    It is a very complicated thing but I do think that media, trends, history, advertisements, television, radio, music, and other stimuli have a great effect on shaping our culture, how we perceive gender roles, and the opportunities we can pursue. Like you said; people swimming against the flow is one way to start breaking down these barriers, but there are other ways too. And by the way…there are men’s make-up lines. Its a growing trend. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if ten years from now your local Avon rep is a man!

    I never said it showed women in “lesser roles”. I said it showed them in “secondary” roles. The spread only showed one female captain. All the other roles are very important but they are secondary, as they all ultimately answer to the captain. (And maybe you can come sailing with us this summer instead.)


  6. Post

    Thank you for your comment. I think sometimes it may be hard for men to see some of the challenges women face due to gender assumptions. I’m glad you recognize that its out there. It sure frustrates the hell outta me and to be honest, although sometimes I myself want to power through and become an top-notch captain, I doubt I will ever push that hard. Its exhausting and frustrating to feel like you are repeatedly being treated unfairly. I have had many such experiences.

  7. Rick Patton

    Teresa, that’s semantics, lesser and secondary basically mean the same. I’m sure it’s frustrating to be as good or better then your peer’s and have your gender thrown in your face. I would like to see other women’s response’s to the blog. So far only us guys. I don’t think you hit a nerve. (Please keep in touch.)


  8. Post

    I hope I didn’t upset anyone with my post.

    I just think it would be much better if there were a few female captains photographed for the photo spread. Ah…all this for a few simple photos! Ah well. I think perhaps next time I write something that might get heated, I need to rethink posting it on the blog. Perhaps I better stick with sea stories!


  9. austin


    Please don’t censor yourself to appease would-be nay-sayers! I thought that it was a really good post, and civilized conversation can never be a bad thing!

    The reason that I responded is that it reminded me of a problem that I encountered while participating in NCAA athletics. Being a teacher, I’m sure that you are familiar with the Title XI law. For those who are not, it was a law passed in 1972 which sought to abolish gender discrimination in the education system. While this is a noble goal, it-like all social engineering practices, had negative consequences.

    Through the implementation of the law, athletics were severely affected. An argument was made that women were underrepresented in athletics, so the logical thing to do was alter the ratio. Instead of just encouraging girls to participate more, schools began limiting the number of boys who could participate. In order to prevent losing funding, schools were motivated to cut entire sports with low female participation to preserve the mandated ratio. My college swim team almost fell victim to this practice; my coach faced the prospect of cutting male athletes or scrounging up female roster-fillers. He ended up finding some truly random female students to put on the roster, but it was a real issue at the time.

    I am not saying that your concerns about the magazine are invalid. As a male, I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to have mechanics refuse to talk to me based on a stereotype, or feel like I was being discriminated against. My point in my reply was not to undermine your plight, just to point out that for better or worse, some things in life just have more guys than gals. It’s not bad, it’s not good- it just is. It doesn’t mean that the women in any given male-saturated profession, sport, etc. are inferior- there are just fewer of them. I don’t think that it is a good thing to try and alter the numbers or even the appearance for the sake of numeric equality.

    I hear what you are saying about print and media influencing our lives. In marketing and many areas of life, perception can often turn into reality. Now, that goes both way, though. If we entertain the notion that women, minorities, etc. need protection and a step up, then they will certainly need protection and a step up. If we enter every situation with the knowledge that every man and woman are equal because they just are, not because of a law, then we’ll go a long way in abolishing stereotypes and inequality.

    I frequent many sailing related blogs, but yours is always the first that I check, hoping for an update. The things that keep me coming back are your excellent writing, your fascinating thoughts, and above all, the refreshing female perspective that is so rarely heard around boats. Thank you!

  10. Bob

    I worked on ICW tugs for a few years and the stereotypes were definitely there but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. We really valued what the women in the office did for us on the boats. They looked out for us and we valued them. We did have one woman on one of the offshore boats. She and her husband were mate and capt (respectively). She wasn’t as easy to work with as some but that can also be said for some of the male captains. I never had any problems and respected her knowledge and experience. There are some women in the windjammer fleet out of Maine who are captains and do a very good job. I do think some of it goes to genetics and the differences in the interests of males and females.
    Enjoyed reading the posts. You have a great group of people reading your blog.

    Capt.Bob B.
    100 Ton Master, 200 Ton Mate

  11. Merry

    I’d bet it’s to the magazine’s and industry’s interest to involve more women in their photo spreads. It’s good to point that out to them.

    The more of us that picture ourselves buying boats, etc…or at least enthusiastically supporting the decision as a couple (as opposed to thinking its just a husband’s flight of fancy expense and getting upset), then the more the pocket books will open for the industry. We are 50% of the population, and thus great potential targets.

    Plus I’d disagree about qualities in females vs. males. The introspection involved in long hours along at sea, rough determination and endurance against pain/tiredness, etc….these are all traits women are typically known for. In fact, many little boys have ADHD, while little girls often have ADD. The first kind is an inability to focus, the second involves hyperfocus often to the point of daydreaming. I think the solitude, closeness with natural cycles, etc….all that spoke to me as a child and still does. I think my female characteristics make me a good liveaboard.

    Now, I will say that I wasn’t necessarily raised to be expected to learn how ‘things work’ as much as maybe some boys. Certainly more than the average girl…but I don’t have that nurtured-in quality of mechanics that is typically fostered in little boys. I admire this quality and see the “can do” spirit when fixing pipelines, engine issues, etc in my dockmates who are men. I want to develop that.

  12. Merry

    Oh, and also there’s the issue of being neat and tidy. Girls are often raised with an expectation of being tidier by their parents.

    This gender characteristic that’s nurtured into us also helps us live in small spaces, and make things work for us in terms of stashing items, being ok with small quarters, and being creative in using one item/piece of furniture/etc in an unexpected or unintended way that works for a marine application.

    Oh, and also we are often tinier framed! We can fit into engine rooms, as well as tight bunks.

  13. Sabbatical

    They are all white too. Unfortunately, I don’t think we are going to see many stereotypes broken in the mega yacht industry.

    We are migrating back north. Drop an email and let us know where you are.

  14. Kim Carver

    Genetics and evolution! Hahaha sorry but that really got me laughing. I’m not even being sarcastic here. I mean, I’m laughing because that sounds so silly but of course it could be seen as offensive too.

    I agree 100% that media, women being oppressed in history for HUNDREDS of years, and even current societal beliefs are why there are fewer women in the industry. I agree that in order to promote women at sea we have to CHANGE those societal beliefs, and for that reason I completely understand wanting the female Dockwalk editors to more vigorously represent women. I also understand that while that may be MY goal, it might not be theirs. It wouldn’t be fair to not include the men, but as a woman who wants to see more women crew and captains out there, I love to post and print and photograph successful female mariners, and let young girls know that the maritime life is completely available to them. One thing, though – I don’t care if they are bitches (there are plenty of sour male salts out there too) but it’s important to only promote intelligent, hardworking women. Just like I don’t want to work with a careless, lazy man, I don’t want to work with a similar woman either.

    A few weeks ago I posted something on Facebook about an all female crew. One man commented about how he’s been seeing plenty of women in the industry and that promoting females was “played out,” as though this was a fad that had lost its luster. On the one hand, I was glad that this man was so surrounded by females that he no longer thought they were unique at the workplace. On the other hand, I noted that all female crews are nowhere near as common as all male crews, and until they are, as a woman, I will continue to let more women see that this is a viable career option for them.

    Thanks for posting this Teresa! Great thread!

  15. Denise

    Dear Teresa, I wish I had found this post earlier. I am highly qualfied female captain. It is true that there are not so many photos of women in alternative positions like captain or mate in our industry publications, but facts are that there are very few of us out there anyway. Statistics show that less than 1/2 of 1% of all yacht captains are female. That is less than 20 in a group of 4000 on yachts of 70+ ft.

    Best is for us gals to take a pro active approach in everything we do professionally. As women we have to exceed the status quo that men get away with as captains – that means we MUST be better at everything that we do in our jobs and even when not in our jobs. Why don’t YOU contact the publications to write an article about you. You can also submit articles of your own or suggest a column to write. These suggestions would surely get your photo in the publications and recognition as a professional.

    I have been in the industry for over 20 years and hold the USCG Master Oceans 1600grt/3000gt as well as MCA, Cayman and Marshall Islands equivalents. Beleive me, it took me far longer (like 4 times) as long as my male peers to get to this qualification due to being turned down so many times throughout the years for quality work because of my gender AND in recent years also due to my nationality as an American.

    Never-the-less, I am still here (however unemployed at the moment) which says alot for my perserverance. We MUST be very pro-active in what we do as a female representing professionalism in our industry. We MUST shine above the guys otherwise we will get lost in the sea of captains out there. We WILL be judged more harshly as well – I know this as a fact from being many years in the business. It is not fair, and yes, it is very closed minded thinking on the part of those that judge us differently than our male counerparts but we have to shine above it.

    You must be pro-active, contribute with your expertise as much as you can – show that you are more professional that the other guys – IT WILL GET RECOGNIZED. For instance:
    – I write articles for our indusrty publications about pertinent subjects. It shows that I am well versed in many issues that are important to our industry.
    – I have created a web site for the promotioin of environmental awareness and practices in the yachting industry http://www.eco-yachts.com.
    – I have developed savvy engineering skills even though I do not market myself as an engineer.
    – I have an extensive list of certifications in addition to my licenses.
    – I am a member of pertinent professional groups like the PYA.
    – I jump at the chances to educated myself in industry seminars and I READ READ READ.
    KNOWLEDGE IS POWER and others will recognize your if you do all of the above. It is not acceptable to just hang out there complaining. Do something to help change the crazy closed minded thniking that we women so often come up against solely due to our gender. Best of luck, Denise

  16. Post

    Thank you for your comment. I agree. Women must keep insisting on going one step further.

    I’m not sure if you are suggesting that I’m only “hanging out here complaining.” In fact I’ve taken many of the steps that you suggest. I’m not just a blogger. However, I’ve been told that this blog is a source of inspiration for women too.

    I don’t care to list my credentials. I am very pleased with how far I’ve come in the maritime industry, and plenty of opportunities are at my feet because of that. I’ve been judged, I’ve been laughed at, and I’ve been ignored. But its not about me, and I’m not trying to get myself recognition as you mentioned in your comment. I just want women in general to have more recognition.

    Its only a letter to the editor…five minutes in a fight that lasts a lifetime.


  17. Charles

    Hi there,
    This is the first post I read on your blog, and I thank you for fighting the good fight. Please don’t feel you should not run more articles pointing out the effects of sexism in the world because it makes some people feel uncomfortable to see the status quo questioned.


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