How Diverse and Inclusive is the Yachting Industry?

29 April 2021 By Laura Shaughnessy
illustration of diverse crowd

Laura Shaughnessy is the former managing editor at Dockwalk. 

Until recently, no report about diversity and inclusion (D&I) existed in the superyacht crew realm. That changed when crewmembers Jenny Matthews and Natasha Ambrose released their She of the Sea Annual Report 2021 in February. The Pledge involves all industry sectors, including crew placement, yacht services, shipyards, management houses, and recruiting and training providers. It brings an incredible spirit of collaboration to the table, according to Chief Officer Jenny Matthews, the co-founder of She of the Sea and LegaSea Mentoring.

“We are seeing organizations that may traditionally have been competitors coming together and uniting behind a common cause — to see our industry at its best,” Matthews says. As they move forward and bring more signatories on board, they’re facilitating roundtables, educational workshops, and networking sessions to “create a circular knowledge economy to solve the many challenges we collectively face.”

The report takes data into account from the period of February 2020 to February 2021. Nearly 32,000 crew (both currently employed and job seeking) made up the sample pool.

For a brief review of how She of the Sea defines the two terms …

  • Diversity: encompasses background, experience, race, gender, orientation, socio economic background, etc.
  • Inclusion: represents how individuals feel within the team: are they listened to, do they feel able to contribute, are they engaged?
Natasha Ambrose and Jenny Matthews

Matthews points out that diversity without inclusion is wasted potential. The captains and organizations that recognize this are taking serious steps from the top down to ensure this is a priority at every level of their operation.

“The Annual Report was the first-ever industry-wide, quantitative and qualitative look into diversity and inclusion, both ashore and at sea,” Matthews says. Twenty-four contributing She of the Sea Pledge Signatories submitted D&I data that represented both their internal and external landscapes. (External is referring to fleet, training, and recruitment insights depending on their relevant sector.)

“We used globally recognized ESG [Environmental, Social, and Governance] reporting standards and this report represents a critical step in creating [a] long term, incredibly beneficial change for all industry stakeholders. We must find out where we are and why, to understand how we move forward,” she says. “The results, although not entirely surprising, were quite shocking, and highlighted just how far we have to go, especially when it came to yacht crew.”

Some of the key findings include:

  • Females represented only 28 percent (out of 32,000 crew). “That’s across all departments combined. Shocking,” Matthews comments. “We often came across the opinion that although each department on a yacht has a dominant gender, the yachts in general are gender diverse because of female representation in the galley and interior. Well, this theory has well and truly been busted.”
  • Leadership progression issues were an issue. “We saw an absolute freefall when we looked at minority genders representation at entry levels vs. senior positions.” For example:

Female deckhand: 10.9%

Female captains: 2.1%

(Male) stewards:

(Male) chief stewards: 10.8%

Female crew/sous chef: 42.6%

Female head/executive chef: 15.5%

“We will have to wait until next year’s collection to compare results to find out what is happening here. If senior representation increases, this signals we have a new generation climbing the ranks — if they don’t, then we have a serious talent pipeline blockage on our hands and our next survey must dive into the all-important ‘why,’” says Matthews.

“People who care about and prioritize high performance teams, safe vessels, and happy owners will care about diversity and inclusion,” Matthews says. “There is a landslide of data-backed research out there that show that diverse and inclusive teams simply outperform those that aren’t. This is seen in better decision making, more innovation, greater cultures, more engaged individuals, and greater job satisfaction.”


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