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MedCruise GA explores women power at sea with leading female voices

PHOTO: MARY BOND Wome-In-Cruise-MedCruise-Tarragona-Spain.jpg
L-R: Anne Marie Spinosi, Figen Ayan, Kate McCue and Marie-Caroline Laurent on June 12 at the 64th MedCruise General Assembly
Three leading female figures within the industry spoke in Tarragona about the lack of female representation in leadership positions in cruise, and the importance of embracing difference.

Females make up below 1% of the overall number of ship captains internationally, according to Kate McCue, online personality and captain at Celebrity Cruises. Her message was, ‘if you can see it you can be it,’ attributing lack of representation and visibility to the low proportion of females in the role. ‘It is our responsibility to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, whether that's using social media, speaking on panels, or just being out there.’ To date, she has 3.6m followers on TikTok and 955,000 followers on Instagram. 

In 2020, Celebrity Edge sailed with all leadership positions held by women. ‘That wasn't something that we wanted to do permanently, though, because the key is diversity… You need that perfect mixture of people, of cultures,’ said McCue. 

She credits former Celebrity president CEO and president Lisa Lutoff-Perlo as opening up roles at sea to more African officers, and boosting the number of females on the bridge from 4% to 34% across the Celebrity fleet.

The comments were made during the ‘Women Power in the Waters’ panel on June 12 at the MedCruise General Assembly (June 11-14) moderated by Anne Marie Spinosi, cruise manager, Corsica Ports and #PortsTogether activities director for MedCruise. 

Entering the industry

MedCruise is responding to enquires on social media about entering the cruise industry – many of them from young women – by introducing a new function on its website that will allow visitors to search career opportunities, the association’s president Figen Ayan explained. It will launch soon after the GA concludes. ‘We have been supported by men and women to be in the place where we are right now,’ said Ayan. She advised adopting a holistic approach, regardless of gender, that is ‘inclusive and embraces the differences’.

Marie-Caroline Laurent, director general, Cruise Lines International Association, Europe shared her personal experiences of being in senior positions in male dominated environments – while working in safety, security and other technical fields, for instance. ‘For me, it's always reminding myself – because I've been negotiating at a political level, in various ways – that you have human beings in front of you; in a meeting, whether they're from the president, friends or the intern, you have people with dreams, feelings.’ She emphasized ‘bringing expertise, honesty and transparency, and treating everybody in that room as human beings, regardless of my conversation, if it's a tough one or not…’ 

In Greece and Spain, CLIA has been working with cruise lines to bring students on board vessels, ‘breaking some perceptions that may be wrong but also creating dreams,’ Laurent revealed.

CLIA’s ‘An Ocean of Opportunities’ report published in March promotes the importance of a global, diverse workforce and is filled with case studies and personal stories of men and women in various roles within the cruise industry. This includes female crew members sharing their experiences of daily life, work conditions and family dynamics.

94% of women seafarers work in the cruise industry and 57% of women in maritime (at sea and on land) are employed in the cruise industry, according to CLIA findings. 

50% of women in the cruise sector hold mid-level positions or higher, according to a 2021 seafarer workforce survey, while -40% of senior leadership roles at cruise lines are held by women.