With a wealth of experience in a number of roles within the yachting industry ashore and onboard, Mary shares her insight on gender perception in the industry, the challenges of balancing family and career, plus her hopes for the future.
It was more a series of events and experiences that led me down this path. I had studied linguistics and language and had spent time in various European cities. Spain, and particularly Catalunya, was of special interest in this aspect. Furthermore, I had grown up near and spent a lot of my free time on water (sailing, swimming, water skiing, canoeing, etc).
Barcelona seemed an ideal place to settle for a few years, combining these two interests. I started sailing here as a hobby, then began racing in regattas. I moved on to helping out on transports and short charters during summer holidays. The man who would later become my husband (a superyacht captain and two-time Spanish sailing champion) played a major role in introducing me to this world.
My hobby became a professional choice following a couple of life-changing events (among them the death of my youngest brother) which made me re-assess my priorities at that time. I decided to leave my current job and sail full-time. This allowed me to pursue my love of travel, and the study of cultures and languages as well as satisfying my desire to learn, stepping outside my comfort zone.
After a couple of years working on a superyacht sailboat, I had the opportunity to become involved in a new build. Because of my language skills I became responsible for liaising with international suppliers. Some years later I was offered a job on another new-build project. Due to my past experience I continued liaising with international suppliers working together with both the technical and purchasing departments at the yard. Soon afterwards I was asked to assist the Commercial department, again due to my language skills, and I began taking part in yacht shows, public relations events, and other related tasks. From there, I moved on to contractual review as I became more involved with the Commercial aspect of yard.
Following the birth of my first child and pondering child-care options, I discussed with my employer going into business for myself taking the yard on as a client. They agreed even though I explained that the relationship would be non-exclusive and we signed a confidentiality agreement which included the obligation not to perform the same type of work for other clients that I carried out for them. As I picked up new clients, I expanded my professional scope to translating manuals for nautical equipment, translating nautical magazine articles, working as a broker for charter companies and their clients and working as an intermediary between international suppliers and local yards. At the same time, I continued to carry out commercial work for the new-build yard (industry events, yacht shows, contract review, etc).
We need to continue to purposefully support women in the professional realm in order to reach a level of empowerment equal to that of men.
Following 6+ years of self-employment, I was offered a position at MB92. With my second child now comfortably settled at school as well, I decided it was the moment to take another turn along the path of broadening my experience within the industry, this time as a member of the Refit sector and after some 10+ years I am still doing just that.
Within any male-dominated industry there are times when women are not taken as seriously as men at first (more so years ago than today). Women must often work twice as hard to make our knowledge and experience apparent to colleagues and clients. I remember a certain US generator supplier representative saying once (after many long discussions concerning equipment issues for undergoing projects) that he was pleasantly surprised to discover he could talk to a woman about the matter at hand in such detail.
Women are traditionally expected to be weaker than men or required to take on the domestic or interior aspects of work or merely to stay in the office. Often these biases are seen both onboard and in the office (again more so years ago than today).
Women also tend to be burdened with having to make the decision whether we want to eventually have a family or not and how that will affect our career choices.
And if we choose to have a family, women may have childcare needs which add to the other challenges we face in the professional sector or that mold our decisions as to which direction to choose along our career path.
I have children, and balancing family and work commitments is something that has had a significant impact on my choices over the years.
Do not let anyone tell you the superyacht world (or any sector, for that matter) is a ‘man’s world’ or that certain roles are only for men. Roles should not be defined by gender. If you want to do it, do it. Or at least give it a try to see if it is really what you want.
Women must often work twice as hard to make our knowledge and experience apparent to colleagues and clients.
Pursue your passions, put your abilities to use but also move outside your comfort zone. Take advantage of opportunities in which you can learn and develop new skills which ultimately adds experience to your curriculum.
Talk to other women who have done something similar. As well as learning that you are not alone as regards your experiences, you may also gain a new perspective on how to approach your objective.
There will always be stereotypes and difficulties to face which are not always gender-related, but do not let these stop you from progressing along your chosen career path. Finding ways to resolve these challenges and using them to your advantage is a good job skill in itself.
There has indeed been progress over the past 25+ years in our industry. More women are taking on key roles each day.
Unfortunately, however, there are still both conscious and unconscious biases and structures in place which sometimes prevent career options and professional decisions to be considered on a personal basis, without gender entering the equation. Therefore, we need to continue to purposefully support women in the professional realm in order to reach a level of empowerment equal to that of men.
We need to openly support women along the career path until the gender scale has become balanced. MB92 makes a great effort to do this for their employees through, amongst other things, facilitating work-family reconciliation as well as through equal opportunities and salaries. Other companies should follow suit. Likewise, similar efforts should be made across the board before a woman enters a workplace starting with the educational structure within the industry.
To see my children (daughter and son) grow up in a world where they can freely choose what they want to pursue as a career or life choice without any prejudices, gender-related or other; a world in which each person considers whether a certain role or job is right for them as a person and not whether it is a role generally acceptable for them as a woman or man.