Mind the Gap: Women and Finance

20 March 2019 By Lauren Beck

A common theme in mainstream financial media is the lack of female representation in financial fields or in the general investment arena. Does that hold true for the yachting industry?

“We have found that we are more regularly approached by male crewmembers wanting to discuss their financial futures,” says Olivia Williams, who was recently promoted to be the first female financial planner at United Advisers Marine in Malta. “However, we are also aware that until recently, we had a one hundred percent male team of financial planners. So perhaps our clients reflected our team also.”

“In my experience in yachting and in general life, men seem to take more of an interest in investments than women,” says Johanna O’Brien, a financial adviser at Beacon Global Wealth Management in the UK. “This would also translate to why there are very few women working in financial services — it is a male-dominated industry.”

“Something needs to be done to open the conversation with women about their options and their responsibility to save for their futures,” says Peter Brooke, a financial adviser with The Spectrum IFA Group. “Anecdotally speaking I would agree there is a big gap in the number of women investing and saving for their futures in the yachting industry.” While Brooke says he has “significantly more male clients,” he also believes that can be attributed to the fact that he is male. “There aren’t a lot of female financial advisers out there and even fewer dealing with yacht crew,” he says.

“The importance of planning for the future and growing your money above inflation should be of a high priority to everyone,” says O’Brien.

“In terms of investing, the biggest challenge for women — which is the same challenge for men — is starting,” says Williams, who attributes this to crew being busy and not necessarily prioritizing finances. “We know that crew can leave their salary in a Standard Bank account during the season and not have a specific plan for investing. This can often mean that revenue generating opportunities are lost during that six-month period.”

Brooke shares his theory on why there seems to be this gender disparity. For him, one of the reasons boils down to timescale, or at least the female crewmember’s perspective of how long she plans to work in yachting. “I believe men see their jobs in yachting as longer term than most women,” Brooke says. “When I meet new prospective clients and we discuss their plans and aspirations, most men tend to believe they will be captains, but many women don’t. Men tend to plan to be in yachting for at least the next ten to fifteen years and women five to seven or eight.”

Brooke proposes that perhaps it’s also due to the types of jobs typically chosen by the different genders, which might translate to a different long-term outlook. “Exterior jobs (normally frequented by men) tend to lead to first mate and captain roles whereas interior jobs tend to lead to purser or chief stew or senior chef,” Brooke says. “As there are fewer boats needing pursers (due to size, etc.) then there are fewer senior jobs like this and therefore, possibly, women don’t see their role in yachting as being as long term as men. …I think this outlook for job length is the main reason more men invest than women.”

Williams agrees that that women aren’t typically found in the highest paid positions as the captain’s role is traditionally male and it’s easier for them to move up the ranks, while women may not progress past chief stewardess or purser, which as Brooke highlighted, might be more limited in potential. She also points to another tough fact. “Once women decide they want to start a family, the yachting industry doesn’t currently accommodate this, meaning if women want to have children, etc., once pregnant they can no longer work on board, or after having children, it is more difficult for them to get back into work due to the nature of the job,” says Williams. This has the unfortunate result of curtailing their earnings and halting their yachting careers. “That’s why it’s so important to have a well thought out plan for ‘life after yachting’ to ensure this doesn’t have a huge financial impact.”

Brooke also highlights the common underestimation of timing in the industry, noting that he’s met several junior and mid-level crew who miscalculated how long they would remain in yachting, so they didn’t bother starting to invest. “I then have met them five or six years later and they are still in yachting and still haven’t saved or invested and have now lost five years’ worth of savings capacity at pretty good income levels,” he says. “As men tend to start an investment early on, they have at least saved something, even if it isn’t as much as they could have done.”