I’ve been working in the maritime industry since 2014. Currently as a third mate, my responsibilities entail 8 hours of navigation watch, inspection and inventory of all safety equipment, deck crew management during docking operations or other deck operations requiring a safety officer/observer. What I enjoy most about my job is Ship handling.
However, being in this industry is very challenging in itself. Being a woman does add certain difficulties that you have to work through everyday. Being a mom of two, it’s a struggle to not be able to hear my kids’ voices everyday. I’m not able to be there when they’re hurt or sad or just want “mommy.” It was also a huge struggle to get my license in good standing because I had taken so much time off from sailing. However, I finally got through it and it was worth all the classes and time spent to get it done.
The other challenge that I think many woman are still concerned with is sexual harassment. I never had an issue with crew members. But when I went into foreign ports, a couple times as a cadet, I had to deal with very uncomfortable situations. Unfortunately we still have to protect ourselves and make sure to always be aware of our surroundings.
I stopped sailing for a long time because I had children and I didn’t think I would be able to come back to sea. I wish more companies were open to discussing maternity leave policies. I know many are working on it; however, it still seems to be placed on the back burner because not many women chose to go back to sea after having kids.
My advice to female seafarers is that you CAN have it all! There may be small sacrifices here and there, but set your goals high and don’t give up on your priorities. Always stay true to who you are.
Kristy Benard, USA