Monday 8 August 2011

UK's first woman to head war ship

The UK Navy has just announced the appointment of first woman to head a warship. Lt Commander Sarah West will take charge of the frigate HMS Portland, with its 185 (mainly male) crew next April.See Martin Wainwright's article in yesterday's Guardian. Photograph: Ben Sutton/PA

If it was a simple matter of equal opportunities at sea I'd be pleased, although I'd have to comment - yet again, unfortunately - that the process of giving women room to progress up maritime career ladders has been rather tardy, hasn't it, chaps. Not what you'd feel fair if it was your son or nephew who was being similarly held back, eh?

As someone opposed to war I actually only feel heavy-hearted that a member of my sex is going to be furthering Britain's war work. But hey ho.

And at least this blog is able to continue to report several of these firsts. The world is not going backwards when it comes to letting women in. And she gets equal pay: £65,000 a year.

Hope she gets on well - she certainly is well-prepared. Wainwright writes that Sarah West, 39, who joined the Navy in 1995, is 'an expert in underwater warfare and large-scale naval planning, took a law degree on top of her university maths honours while serving in the Middle East.

'She is also the first woman to achieve the rank of commander, a promotion due at the end of the year and only a step away from captain and then the various categories of admiral.'

'Signs of a high-flying career developed in her successful role in planning international exercises, including periods at naval headquarters co-ordinating operations in the Balkans at the time of Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008.

'This followed a major logistical role in the evacuation of 4,600 UK citizens and others from Lebanon in 2006, and a spell co-ordinating the navy's contribution to operations in Iraq.

'"This appointment is good news," [a RN]spokesman said. "The Royal Navy is committed to ensuring equality of opportunity for all its personnel to enjoy challenging, fulfilling and rewarding careers."'

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