Women’s History Month Feature – Women in The Boating & Marine Industries

a female megaship boat captain standing with the ocean and a ship in the background.

Captain Kate McCue (Celebrity Cruises)

The United States has observed Women’s History Month every March since 1987. The occasion is a time to celebrate and recognize women for their extraordinary achievements and contributions throughout history, and that’s certainly true for us here at the Key West Historic Seaport and Key West Bight Marina.

As women continue to make strides in the workplace in industries historically filled by men, I wonder: What percentage of workers in the boating/marine industry overall are women?

In fact, when women first wanted to work on boats or in the marine industry, they most often had to disguise themselves as men! According to the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies, “By living aboard the ship with their husband or father, many women would learn how to operate the vessel and learn navigational techniques.” However, even if one did successfully learn about the industry while growing up under this arrangement, once a girl entered her teenage years, she would be expected to assume traditional feminine roles.

So, what are the statistics like today? Though we know the boating/marine industry is still heavily represented by men, the numbers are trending up for women big time! In fact, in 2020. the number of women shopping for boats increased by 75%! Jennifer Burkett, an avid boater and marine industry professional, states that this increase in female shoppers has (not surprisingly) led to more females becoming boat captains and instructors. Hopefully this trend will continue over the coming months and years. On that note, what can we do to continue going in this direction in the boating and marine industries?

A woman boater is working on a boat.

Jenn Harkness, Professional Boater, American Sailing Assoc.

Primariy, according to professional boater Jenn Harkness in her American Sailing Association article, boating industry stakeholders can support women in the profession through things like the following:

  • CHECKING BIASES – Including stereotypes and traditional notions of gender roles in boating and the marine industry.
  • MARKETING-Producing more marketing materials featuring women and opportunities geared toward women.
  • SUPPORT-Providing a larger voice for women through professional support, representation in an organization’s communications, and more.

In sum, there are some very positive and encouraging trends on women in boating and other marine and maritime industries, and there are actions and best practices industry stakeholders can take to further encourage this progress.So, what about in your industry or business? Are you taking these important and exciting steps? Let us know, and you may be featured in an upcoming Key West Bight Marina blog post!

Your next great adventure starts here! | Discover Boating

For more information on the restaurants, shops, watersports, fishing, & other excursions available at Key West Bight Marina, visit www.KeyWestBightMarina.com and www.KeyWestHistoricSeaport.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram + YouTube!