It’s International Women’s Day today, and in advance of the many discussions taking place around the world, BOAT International hosted its first ever ‘Women in Yachting’ Clubhouse room on Friday.
The hour-long debate brought together some of the most talented and influential female leaders from across the industry, including everyone from the CEO of Hunton Yachts, Fiona Poole and Brunehilde Derda, co-CEO, Principal Naval Architect and Engineer of D.W. Yacht Design, through to arctic ice pilot Ashley Perrin, Northrop & Johnson sales broker Ann Avery, and Heesen’s PR and Press Office Manager Sara Gioanola.
The discussion focused on issues such as how the industry can communicate the many different career options open to young women from an early age; how to respond to challenging and common situations – for example, many shared the experience of often being the only woman in the room in large business meetings, while others revealed how they were frequently mistaken for a stewardess, rather than the captain, onboard – and outlined the turning points in their careers that led them to where they are today.
Confidence, it emerged, was a key learning. Many expressed that they’d held themselves back in the early days of their businesses, fearing that they didn’t have the knowledge or ability to push themselves further, and it was only once they began learning on the job that they realised their skillset was no different to their male contemporaries.
Removing gendered thinking was also a key theme. “I never thought of myself as a female naval architect – I was simply the best architect I could be,” explained Derda, while others agreed. Marie Solimand, Founder and Creative Director of Bergman Interiors & Njord By Bergman, and Sarah Colbon, Co-Founder of Njord by Bergman Design House, recalled being profiled in a “best women designers” feature in a magazine, rather than the publication’s main design special – something that felt incredibly reductive at the time.
“I think one of the main things Njord took away from the session was that we are surrounded by such women of strength and determination in our industry. What a powerhouse!” said Colbon following the talk. “We really believe now more than ever is the time to no longer divide by gender type in yachting. It’s about including and celebrating all our achievements, taking responsibility, being aware, knowing when to challenge and always striving for change.”
“I truly enjoyed being part of this illustrious panel,” continued Gioanola. “Female captains, Arctic pilots, CEOs, designers, engineers, welders, carpenters, fine cabinet makers... today, there’s no job in our industry that is precluded to women. Let’s make sure the new generation knows about how many possibilities there are.”
Jenny Matthews, who also attended the talk and is founder of the She of the Sea organisation, releases the first ever report on D&I (diversity and inclusion) in the yachting industry today. “The findings are very revealing,” she said, “it was great to chat with everyone and I look forward to many more conversations about what the path ahead looks like.”
The Clubhouse app, which is accessible by invite-only on iOS, allows users to listen in to audio conversations with others, as well as giving them the option to ask questions and engage in the discussion themselves. Its popularity has boomed over the past year – back in May 2020, there were just 1,500 users on the platform, while today it has in excess of two million users and the company is valued at $1billion.
Join the BOAT International group on Clubhouse today to be kept up to date on future discussions.