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She of the Sea: Jenny Matthews

The yachting industry has had a traditionally very glamourous image. But changes are happening. There is a refocus on skills and ‘She of the Sea’ taking the helm in helping lead the yachting industry towards greater diversity, writes Samantha Fisk.

It is not just the maritime industry that is being affected by the new diversity challenge but other industries such as law, financial and technology have already started to invest and adapting to this highlights Jenny Matthews, co-founder of She of the Sea and now it has come to the maritime industry as well. The traditional image of yachting has always been that of shiny white boats, billionaires and ladies dressed up, but now that image needs to change and is being challenged and changed, through programmes like She of the Sea being set up to help women step into jobs that aren’t so stereotypical.

She of the Sea was started by Jenny Matthews, aimed at women working in the yachting industry, when she asked the simple question of “who else is out there?”. She says that  sometimes women can feel like they are on their own as it is a very male dominated industry. She of the Sea aims at raising the visibility and awareness of the topic of diversity in the yachting industry, helping question gender stereotypes for particular roles. Matthews notes that whilst setting up the platform that it has also been an educational journey for her, making her look at her own thoughts and stereotypes of people.

The She of the Sea platform helps connect people in the yachting industry to help promote and raise awareness on these topics, which is open to both men and women. Part of how the company promotes this is through its ‘Pledge’ which is a commitment by She of the Sea and signatory organisations to work together to build a diverse and inclusive Yachting industry. Also, on the horizon is a mentorship programme, as Matthews notes that: “the lack of mentorship and networking opportunities is holding woman back in the industry.” Currently in the process of raising fund, the mentorship programme is inviting mentors of all genders to help women at sea.

The imagery that is representative of the yachting industry actually “does a disservice to the industry” highlights Matthews, as there are lots of highly trained crew out there. She adds that the industry needs to work to step away from this and focus more on the skills that people have in the market and help to promote those. Matthews highlights that today there are many developments and opportunities going on in the areas of green technology with a huge amount of passion from the people involved in the industry, but there are also other topics such as mental health and crew welfare and this is not inclusive to just the yachting industry.

Also, on the horizon is a mentorship programme, as Matthews notes that: “the lack of mentorship and networking opportunities is holding woman back in the industry.” Currently in the process of raising fund, the mentorship programme is inviting mentors of all genders to help women at sea. 

Matthews highlights that today there are many developments and opportunities going on in the areas of green technology with a huge amount of passion from the people involved in the industry, but there are also other topics such as mental health and crew welfare and this is not inclusive to just the yachting industry. The demographic of the yacht owner is also starting to shift, where as previously ‘hot spots’ like Monaco and St Moritz where the go to destinations, new owners that are coming on to the market are now looking at exploring other parts of the world and have an interest in the latest technology.

“We see vessels starting to explore further destinations like arctic regions. There is an awareness of the world becoming more than it was and topics like the environment and diversity are becoming more important to these owners. It’s a natural progression that we are seeing”, adds Matthews. To make changes through it will be about challenging the mindsets that already exist both for people working in the in the industry and women coming into it about the job roles that women can do. “Challenges of mindsets that are blocking women from taking other roles in yachting are coming from the imagery, what they are told, other’s mindsets and also pre-judgement of what that person may be capable of”, Matthews comments.

She also adds that the industry is faced with a talent leak, where experienced crew are leaving when they have come to end of their service. Through She of the Sea Matthews is looking to keep that talent in the industry and feeding it back into shore side services, “building a bridge between shore and sea for transfer skills.”

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