Jenny Matthews, Founder of the ‘She of the Sea’ introduces the initiative which aims to enhance diversity and inclusion in the yachting sector and discusses how to remove any barriers towards that end. Change does not happen over night, and hopefully, the global community is already on a journey for a more diverse and equal industry. All in all, the practices and cultures we build now will be critical to the sustainability of our industry as we move forward, Mrs Matthews notes.
SAFET4SEA: What does diversity mean for the shipping industry? What are the goals & aspirations of your organization to boost diversity in shipping industry?
Jenny Matthews: Diversity and inclusion is a critical matter of sustainability for the Superyacht industry, just as it is for the wider shipping world. Sustainability in the social and governance landscape in that we require considerable amounts of talent to propel the industry forward; innovate, operate and manage the industry. The vessels are getting larger by the year, as are the demands for crew, as well as shore side infrastructure to support the fleet. If we only look at half the population (traditionally recruiting males for exterior, females for interior etc) and limit potential candidates, we not only do ourselves a disservice, but the industry as a whole. When recruiting talent, we need to be accessing as large of a talent pool as possible to find the best candidates. This sentiment extends to the entire talent pipeline, extending past recruitment, and into talent progression and retention, and then of course into the flow of seafaring talent into the shoreside industry address the talent leak we currently are experiencing.
She of the Sea holds the clear vision of a high performance, competency focused industry, regardless of gender, race or any other irrelevant factors. We recognise that people are our vessels and organisations greatest assets, and that the practices and cultures we build now will be critical to the sustainability of our industry as we move forward.
S4S: What would be the key challenges for greater diversity, inclusion and equality onboard and ashore in the next 5-10 years?
J.M.: The key challenges or barriers we as an industry face range from conscious and unconscious , internal and external barriers. Things such as the unconscious biases that we all hold about who can and cannot do certain jobs, the narrative we create and perpetuate that creates these unconscious biases though the verbal and visual representation of the industry (think advertising material, websites, and even who speaks at events and who has a seat in boardroom tables).
A large challenge also involves how we engage the next generation of seafarers, and the way we promote careers at sea, and to whom. Understanding the incredible business case for diversity and inclusion, and creating visibility and awareness around this will also be key for corporate action in this direction as well.
S4S: In comparison to other industries, do you think that sufficient work is already underway in terms of diversity within the shipping industry? What can we learn from others to move forward?
J.M.: Tough question, as change does not happen over night, and at the same time, has any industry as a whole achieved true diversity and inclusion? I feel like the global community is on a journey in this conversation, and certain sectors, specific organisation, and individuals are certainly leading the pack in term of action. There is a real separation happening across many industries, between those that have taken action and are leading this change, and those that have not yet understood the incredible competitive advantage they are missing out of. This of course comes down to education, and as in any conversation, especially sustainability, there will be those that lead, and those that simply get left behind. We can learn a lot from the leaders in the diversity and inclusion conversation around the world, what successful strategies they have employed, how they add value to all their major stakeholder through this action, and the competitive edge they now enjoy as a result. I would say that this is the main take away that shipping can take- does an organisation or an industry want to lead? Or get left behind- we are faced with this choice now, and the action we take today will impact how the future landscape unfolds.
S4S: Which are the key barriers towards a more diverse and equal environment onboard and ashore and how your organization aims to assist the industry to overcome them? How these barriers can be turned into drivers/ opportunities?
J.M.: Through the Yachting Diversity and Inclusion Pledge https://www.sheofthesea.com/industrypledge , launched by She of the Sea in February 2020, we provide support and suggest strategies to be employed by our Signatories to move past the various barriers our industry faces. The pledge resolutions are as follows:
1.Assign a Senior Sponsor, to monitor performance in respect to the pledge, actively supporting and promoting the pledge and its resolutions. In doing this they drive progress forward and make it clear that supporting equality in the workplace is the responsibility of all leaders and managers.
2.Report and Monitor. Capturing data is important for establishing a baseline and measuring progress. It ensures the ability to measure strategic impact while creating accountability.
3. Visual Representation. Adopting a more diverse and inclusive balance and representation in marketing materials, branding and marketing activities. Ensuring all voices are equally represented at events, on panels and advisory boards.
4.Hiring and Placement. Each organisation is committed to ensuring it conducts fair recruitment/ placement processes by taking active steps; such as using gender balanced shortlists, refining the way roles are advertised or having a specialist diversity recruiter advise them.
S4S: Last year, IMO WMD theme was dedicated to women empowerment in the maritime community. What needs to be done further to support gender diversity in shipping? What is your advice to industry stakeholders?
J.M.: I must be honest that as I am not fully aware of all that has already been done, I could not possibly comment on what further needs to happen. I would however share that She of the Sea has moved away from making this a ‘gender’ conversation, and one of competency, the incredible business case and many benefits to be gained by all major stakeholders.
S4S: If you could change one thing that would have an either profound or immediate impact on making a career in shipping more attractive to young men and women (outside the industry), what this one thing would it be and why?
J.M.: More visibility, and with a more professional narrative – and perhaps this is more specific to the Superyacht industry. We currently have no official outreach to recruit new talent so unfortunately programs like Below Deck, and word of mouth are how people hear about the industry. This impacts recruitment 2 folds as it deters the passionate, long term, career focused talent due to the unprofessional nature of the show, and appeals to those looking for a short term, party around the world earning lots of money. This kind of talent recruitment doesn’t do any stake holders any favours and needs to be addressed immediately.
S4S: Do you have any new projects/plans/ initiatives to further support diversity within maritime that you would like to share?
J.M.: We are about to launch a comprehensive mentorship platform that aims to create connection, opportunity and access that may not have been traditionally available to certain crew. This, alongside the united industry wide actions being taken by our Pledge Signatories, and a few other projects focusing on community out reach is a great start.
S4S: What is your key message to industry stakeholders with respect to a future of a more sustainable shipping?
J.M.: The cultures and practices we create and cultivate now will determine the future of our industry. Change doesn’t happen over night, but together we can create a high performance, competency focused industry, that benefits all major stakeholders as we move forward.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.
About Jenny Matthews
Officer of the Watch after 8 years in the industry, and never having worked with another female deck member, Jenny asked a simple question “who else is out there?”. She of the Sea was born. Along with Natasha, Jenny continues to unite the yachting industry the vision of a high performing and competency focused industry, regardless of gender, race or any other factors