“I once had to knock on the door of the Captain’s office to ask if he would be able to arrange getting some tampons sent to the ship. We’d been at anchor for 6 weeks and I got myself so nervous to ask. But he dealt with it so well, not only professionally but in a way that made me feel like it was a completely normal request – which I guess it was. And for me that’s when I realised that we’re not ‘men’ or ‘women’ at sea, we are all human beings. We are all away from home, we all have good and bad days, and as long as we treat each other with compassion and empathy, rather than ‘if you can’t cope with feeling that way maybe this isn’t the career for you’. The person I have sailed with who made my life on board the hardest was actually another woman, which made dealing with it so much harder, as I believe it is really important for women in this industry to stick together, support each other and raise each other up.”
For sure you have to be thick skinned to enter this industry as a woman – although the ideology is changing now, there are still lots of guys who have spent the majority of their careers without women on board – they’re having to adjust to the change, and I don’t think they can be blamed for that. I do have stories of sexist comments, and derogatory remarks that I could share, that I and my female peers have suffered, but focusing on the negatives doesn’t help us progress and work towards ensuring a positive work environment for everyone at sea – man and women. We all have different abilities and skills and the wonderful thing about a life at sea, is that we pick up the strengths of each individual to create a harmonious and effective team.”
For me the thing that requires attention is providing the practical resources for women on board. There should be PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) available that fits… that includes gloves, safety boots, coveralls, fire fighter outfits, working at height harnesses – anything and everything. It’s not right or safe that this equipment isn’t available in sizes that can fit us on the majority of merchant vessels. Also having sanitary products and a safe and sanitary place to dispose of this waste.
The attitude around the world is changing gradually and I think that the more women at sea who are proving their competence and ability to work within the industry, the faster the ideology is changing. Actions speak louder than words.”
I first went to sea just over three years ago
I chose to follow the Deck route, something that has eternally disappointed my dad who was an engineer in the Royal Navy! (I’m just kidding he’s immensely proud of me)”
Racheal Arnold, England.- 3rd officer Celebrity Cruises.