The maritime industry is, and always has been, strongly male dominated. In fact, right now women only represent two percent of the world’s 1.2 million seafarers, 94 percent of which are working in the cruise industry.
Recently, the IMO has been making a concerted effort to help improve gender diversity in line with today’s expectations, for example the “Empowering women in the maritime industry” theme for World Maritime Day 2019 and by making 2020 the “Year of the woman”.
This is an imbalance that Fred. Olsen Windcarrier is also taking steps to address. While we have always employed women in ratings positions, and particularly as stewardesses, it can be a real challenge to find women with the necessary experience for more senior positions. There are simply very few out there!
We knew that it is not enough to simply cast our net and hope to land the right fish. Instead, we decided to create a new opening for officers that would provide a clear development path to senior positions and use it as a way of attracting more women to our ranks.
The position we created at Fred. Olsen Windcarrier was for ‘Third Officer’, a junior position that enables people who are starting their careers to gain a foothold on the ladder and gain an opportunity to be trained into tomorrow’s leaders. We then conducted a global recruitment programme that attracted 215 applicants, only 5% of whom were female (which again served to highlight the issue we are trying to address!).
Introducing a future leader
One of the successful applicants was Sarah Bloomer from the UK. We spoke to Sarah to learn more about her, and to get her perspective on this new role.
Tell us a little about yourself
I’m 26 years old, I’m from Rutland in England. I graduated in Navigation and Maritime with a 1st Class Degree from the University of Plymouth. My dad was in the merchant navy and I used to listen to his wonderful stories of travelling the world; I knew this was something I wanted to experience.
How did you start in the industry?
While I was at university, I was offered a sponsorship by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. This gave me 12 months’ experience on board two vessels as a cadet. I learned a huge amount during this time, starting off with routine ship maintenance before spending time on the bridge where I helped with officer-specific tasks, such as bridge watches and safety inspections. By the end I was helping the captain with anchoring operations and manoeuvring the vessel into port – exciting stuff!
Why did you want to move to Fred. Olsen Windcarrier?
It was all good timing. After working at the cruise lines for two years as an officer, I was on leave just as the pandemic was starting. Our HR department told me that Fred. Olsen Windcarrier needed someone for one month, which I agreed to do as I was looking for a new challenge. It was a fantastic experience and gave me a unique insight into the offshore wind industry.
The Third Officer position became available, and I jumped at the chance. So far, I have done one stint at the Moray East project in Scotland, which has been fascinating. With wind turbine installation, there is a lot to learn, but everyone is extremely welcoming and keen to show me how things are done. One thing I particularly appreciate is that this doesn’t feel like a new company – it’s just a different part of the Fred. Olsen family.
Where will this role take your career?
I’ve definitely found my vocation and I’m here for the long haul. Everything about the role suits me perfectly, from the nature of the position, the career development path, and even the fact that I work for five weeks onboard, then I have five weeks off. As a woman, this is important as it will allow for a good work/life balance when I eventually have my own family.
I have started the Dynamic Positioning course, and will go for my Chief Mate’s licence next, and then my Master’s licence. One day I want to be the company’s first female captain.
What do you think about the role of women in the industry?
This is something I am very passionate about, and in fact I did my University dissertation on ‘Women in the Merchant Navy’. There is a serious imbalance, which I am so happy to see Fred. Olsen is helping to address. I believe for change to really happen, there needs to be more women role models in this industry – people need to actually see women succeeding – and more awareness in schools of the potential opportunities out there. Hopefully, I can be a part of that change.
Meet a few of the other people who contribute each day to the success of Fred. Olsen Windcarrier here.