Cameroonian Nicholine Tifuh Azirh became, the first West African woman to work on the bridge of a cruise ship, is also featured.
This article by Cynthia Drescher, ‘With More and More Women Taking the Helm, the Cruise Industry is Setting an Example,' is from CondeNast Traveller, 21. 2.2019
https://www.cntraveler.com/story/why-there-are-more-female-cruise-ship-captains-than-ever. I've just added some sub-headings and extra pictures.
"I’m so excited to share the news of our partnership with RMU and to welcome Nicholine [Tifuh Azirh] onboard,” says Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, of Celebrity Cruises. “Nicholine isn’t just a new-hire, she symbolizes hope for women around the world who dream of working in a male-dominated industry.” Picture by Diego Texera/Courtesy Celebrity Cruises
'Kate McCue was walking along a beach on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten last June when an attendant asked if she was heading back to one of the cruise ships docked there for the day.
Wearing a pair of mirrored aviator sunglasses and a sundress over a swimsuit, McCue certainly looked the part of the relaxed vacationer.
She replied, however, that she worked onboard, then asked the attendant to guess her role on the ship.
“I think you’re the captain’s wife, but if you’re not, then I think you’re the cruise director’s wife,” he said.
McCue's reply—"What do you think if I tell you I’m the captain?”.
[T]he man’s shocked but enthusiastic reaction, was posted on her Instagram account, and the short exchange has racked up more than 16,000 views and a deluge of supportive comments from viewers.
Some even vow to only cruise on whatever ship she’s captaining (currently the Celebrity Equinox).
McCue [pictured below] may be the first American woman to captain a cruise ship, an honor she earned in 2015, but her story is emblematic of a paradigm shift in the cruise industry, where, for the first time, more women are taking the helm.
Women now constitute between 18 and 20 percent of the cruise industry workforce, and five to 22 percent of cruise ship officers are women, depending on the line.
Compare this to the global airline pilot industry’s five percent female statistic, and it’s clear that cruising is making waves (pun intended).
PROGRESS HAS BEEN HARD
[C]enturies of folklore painted women as sirens, mermaids, or demons who distracted crew and angered the sea gods into stirring up stormy weather.
During the 19th century, the only female presence found on many ships would have been the carved wooden figurehead of an open-eyed, bare-breasted woman affixed to its bow—a totem the sailors believed would bring navigational luck while shaming the seas into calm weather.
Ship officers, meanwhile, traditionally came from countries like Greece, Italy, England, and Norway—cradles of seagoing tradition and home to a plethora of professional maritime academies, many of which did not admit women until the last quarter-century.
But nautical superstitions die hard.
The growing availability to all of a professional maritime education, combined with seemingly common sense developments like sexual harassment prevention training and making marine workwear available for women at sea, opened the way to shipboard leadership.
[A]nd, in the last decade, cruise lines have been enthusiastically promoting women to the top ranks.
“THERE ARE SHIFTS TO NOT ONLY HIRE MORE WOMEN, BUT ALSO RETAIN A FEMALE WORKFORCE, EFFECTIVELY OPENING OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN TO PURSUE LEADERSHIP ROLES," SAYS ALLY CEDENO, FOUNDER OF WOMEN OFFSHORE.
The first woman appointed captain of a cruise ship was Karin Stahre-Janson of Sweden, who took command of Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas in 2007.
Other lines that have added their first female captains include:
- Cunard (Inger Klein Thorhauge)
- P&;O Cruises (Sarah Breton)
- Windstar(Belinda Bennett, the industry’s first black female captain),
- Sea Cloud Cruises (Kathryn Whittaker)
- AIDA (Nicole Langosch)
- Silversea (Margrith Ettlin).
Just this week, luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises announced that its newest ship, the Seven Seas Splendor, set to debut in 2020, will be the first brand new cruise ship to have a woman, Serena Melani [pictured, right] as its first master.
(A ship’s master is the captain captain and the ultimate authority onboard, while a staff captain is the second-in-command and next to take a ship of their own.)
CELEBRITY 'FIRSTS'Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises—and Kate McCue's boss—is a "first" herself.
In 2014 she became the first woman to run a publicly traded cruise line, a position she’s held while developing initiatives to recruit more women to shipboard leadership roles.
Celebrity now leads the industry, with women accounting for 22 percent of its bridge teams.
2/13 CELEBRITY 'MASTERS'
The Celebrity fleet of 13 ships counts two female masters—McCue on the Celebrity Equinox, and Nathaly Albán, the first Ecuadorian cruise ship captain, on the Celebrity Xploration—and two female staff captains, Wendy Williams and Maria Gotor, as well as many more at other officer levels.
Yet another industry first came when Lutoff-Perlo had a chance meeting with a female cadet from Ghana’s Regional Maritime University.
Learning that women enrolled at the institution have no career path following graduation other than turning around to assist or teach at the university, Lutoff-Perlo helped forge a partnership with the school to create a pipeline for female maritime professionals from Africa.
[As a result] in 2017 RMU Cadet and Cameroonian Nicholine Tifuh Azirhbecame the first West African woman to work on the bridge of a cruise ship.
All this trailblazing was also key in Celebrity’s convincing Malala Yousafzai, the female education activist and Nobel laureate, to christen and be godmother of the line’s newest ship, Celebrity Edge, in December 2018.
SUPPORTIVE NETWORKS HELP"That said, no one goes straight from the maritime academy classroom to the dress whites and formal nights of a cruise ship career. Ally Cedeno, [pictured right] a chief mate of unlimited tonnage vessels and an offshore dynamic positioning operator, founded the Women Offshore organization to foster and support female interest in maritime professions.
She tells Traveler that the organization's mission is to offer “virtual mentorships,” describing them as “a free resource for any woman, regardless of what body of water she works in.”
Cedeno believes now is (finally) the time for women to rule the waves. “There are shifts to not only hire more women, but also retain a female workforce, effectively opening opportunities for women to pursue leadership roles," she says.
"Addressing the gender gap has gone beyond recruitment practices to focus on maternity leave, availability of technical uniforms, mentoring, and harassment prevention guidelines.”Seeking out mentorships is also the advice of Uniworld River Cruises CEO Ellen Bettridge, whose line recently shook up the staid river cruising industry with initiatives to welcome LGBTQ+ couples and families as well as millennials.
“Cruising is one of hospitality’s great innovators,” she says. “I do believe that women have a special understanding of the power that lies in making connections, and so I encourage young women to find an experienced person who can help them navigate their careers.
And when you make it, be that person for someone else.”
GENDER DIVERSITY IS AS CRITICAL TO A SHIP AS IT IS TO ANY ENTERPRISE, ENCOURAGING TEAMWORK AND CREATIVITY WHILE BRINGING A RANGE OF PERSPECTIVES FOR BETTER, MORE INFORMED, AND EVEN FASTER DECISION MAKING
VIRGIN'S SCARLET SQUAD
The numbers of women on cruise ship bridges is only expected to grow, especially with newbie cruise line Virgin Voyages actively recruiting women to the bridge of their first ship, Scarlet Lady, due to begin sailing in 2020.
Virgin has formed a “Scarlet Squad” with the explicit intent of “growing leadership roles for women in marine, technical, and hotel management positions onboard.”
Dee Cooper, senior vice president of design for Virgin Voyages, tells Traveler that their shoreside team is 60 percent female, and they have set a goal for their shipboard crew to be at least 50 percent female.
"We need to rebalance the field," she said at a recent press conference in New York City, when Virgin Voyages announced its sailings were open for booking.
"And we're focusing our attention on recruitment and mentoring to do it."
A cruise ship may be a vacation factory for its guests, but it's also a workplace for the hundreds or thousands of crew onboard.
Gender diversity is as critical to a ship as it is to any enterprise, encouraging teamwork and creativity while bringing a range of perspectives for better, more informed, and even faster decision making.
It’s also just good business sense.
Women make the lion’s share of decisions and bookings in the $7.6 billion dollar travel and tourism industry, so having women at all levels means better representing and relating to customers.
And with 2019 set to be the biggest year ever for new cruise ships—24 deliveries will bring another 42,488 beds to the seas—there's never been more opportunity in the industry, not to mention improved chances that the woman on the beach lounger next to you is your captain.