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Female leaders in the world of cruising

Sarah on Mar 07, 2016

Female leaders in the world of cruising

The cruise industry faces the same issues and hot topics as any other, including that of gender. Wage equality and having the same opportunities available has long been a struggle for women in the workplace, especially in the upper echelons, and although we have come a long way, there is yet a long way to go.

The distribution of male and female employees working on ships and onshore for the many cruise lines around the globe is far from even, especially when you get to the ship's officers and other high-earning positions. However, things are looking up, as the world realises that women can do just about anything men can do. It took a while, but we're getting there! We thought we'd celebrate International Women's Day by taking a look at  the amazing women who are finding success in their cruise roles.

We love to cruise - and here are some of the ladies who help to make it happen!


Cruise ship captains
If you are asked to picture a captain in your mind's eye, you might see a santa-looking fellow with a white beard and spiffy cap. However, facial hair is no indication of skill in managing big vessels, as several ladies have set out to prove over the last few years.

captain's view on a ship

The first ever female captain of a major cruise ship was Karin Stahre-Janson, who took command of the Monarch of the Seas in 2007. Before her appointment, Captain Stahre-Janson, who is Swedish, had a prestigious career working in cargo shipping  and then as an officer for Royal Caribbean on various vessels. It seems incredible that it took until well into the 21st century for a woman to be appointed to the role, but Captain Stahre-Janson made a wonderful first example.

P&O Cruises in the UK were the next to appoint a female captain, when Sarah Breton from Essex was appointed as the master onboard the Artemis in 2010. She was welcomed into her role by the company's first female managing director, Carol Marlow, who commented "We are delighted that Sarah Breton has been promoted to the role of Captain on board Artemis. Sarah has worked on board P&O Cruises ships for many years and truly deserves to be Master of Artemis. We wish her every success in her new role."

As is the case with many captains before her, Captain Breton grew up near the water with a love of boats and the ocean. It's great to see that young girls with dreams like hers can now fulfill them! Shortly after Captain Breton took command, Cunard appointed Captain Inger Olson to the Queen Victoria, one of their elegant and traditional ships.

The latest news on the lady captain scene is the first female captain from the United States, Kate McCue. Captain McCue is 37 years old, and was appointed to the position last year to command the Celebrity Summit, a premium mega ship. This followed 15 years of experience in the maritime industry, and a dedication by Celebrity to advancing women in leadership.

McCue said of the job: "Becoming the first female American captain of a cruise ship has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember. The honor is amplified by being the first at a company like Celebrity Cruises."

While the ratio of men to women in captain roles across the cruise industry is still appallingly high, these bold trailblazers are, we hope, the beginning of a change.

Onshore leaders
Shore-based corporate roles in the cruise industry are a little less subject to gender bias than the traditionally masculine captain's job, although still facing the usual inequality which plagues high-level jobs in all fields. There are some shining stars in the industry who are leading the way - businesswomen shaping the world of cruising as CEOs.

meeting room

Ann Sherry is one of these stars, having served as CEO of Carnival Australia since 2007. Prior to that, she enjoyed an illustrious career of leadership roles in Westpac New Zealand, Bank of Melbourne and other companies. She has also been a dedicated public servant and proponent of women's rights, as First Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Status of Women in Canberra and Australia's representative to the United Nations forums on human rights and women's rights. She has won many awards including the Order of Australia and Centenary Medal.

As the head of Carnival in Australia,  Ms Sherry oversees quite a few of our favourite cruise brands including Carnival, P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises. What a job! It's encouraging to know that despite disadvantages of gender, the sky is the limit.

Another high flyer is Edie Rodriguez, the first female CEO of a luxury cruise line. She is currently running the show at Crystal Cruises, a line owned by Genting Hong Kong and headquartered in Los Angeles. She is a trailblazer in this regard, and her path began as a travel consultant, soon specialising in the cruise industry and gaining experience in corporate positions for Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Azamara Club.

Ms Rodriguez told Fortune that she received advice as a child to find her passion and follow it - and hers was travelling. She has now visited more than 100 countries, and has a job that entails sending people on envy-inducing vacations. We think she's done what she set out to do!

With the gender pay gap (for full-time earnings) now calculated at 17.9% in Australia and not having changed much in twenty years, it's encouraging to hear some success stories in our favourite industry. Tomorrow is International Women's Day, and in the words of Maya Angelou: "how important it is for us to recognise and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!"

I have enjoyed visiting as much of the world as possible over the years. Europe and the Mediterranean are personal favourites, but there is so much to see very close to our little Australasian corner of the globe- one of my top travel experiences was snorkeling with tropical fish and turtles in New Caledonia! Cruising is a fantastic way to see it all, and we hope to make booking a cruise easier for both first-timers and old salts. From ship tips to destination news and views, we will keep you up-to-date. Happy cruising!

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