Superyachts are all about maths, says new campaign to encourage girls to pursue careers at sea

Jenny Matthews and Natasha Ambrose are embarking on an unusual world tour: encouraging girls to consider careers as superyacht captains.

Matthews and Ambrose, who are both first officers on superyachts, a role that includes helming the vessels, say they decided to launch a scheme dedicated to encouraging women into the top ranks after discovering that more than 95% of yacht captains and first officers were men, according to a recent article in the Guardian.

Natasha Ambrose from Chichester, West Sussex, says a core part of the She of the Sea campaign is to let schoolchildren know that working as an officer or engineer on a superyacht sailing the world was a viable career no matter their gender – if they work hard at maths and science.

“The only way to really change things is to get people enthused when they are young,” she says. “Our phrase is, ‘If she can see it, she can be it,’ and we’re planning our own roadshow to schools in the UK and across the world to encourage girls to study science, maths and engineering so that they can take career paths like this.”

Jenny Matthews says superyachts “are all about maths”.

“I never thought that I would be using Pythagoras – I really, really glazed over it in high school – but that’s pretty much navigation. Superyachting is literally all STEM: from designing them, to building them, to working out where they can go, and driving them.”

More than 95% of captains and first officers of large yachts are men. Photograph: Valéry Hache/AFP/Getty

Matthews says she decided to start the She of the Sea campaign because “after securing my officer of the watch ticket in 2018, I realised that in the eight years working on deck, I’d never worked with another woman in the deck department.

“I wanted to know if there were any other women officers out there,” she says. “It took a long time to find any official statistics, but research by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency shows that just 60 women have qualified as senior yacht seafarers since 2006, out of a total of 1,210 people. Our mission is to rewrite the narrative of women in maritime by raising visibility and awareness.”

Matthews says raising awareness that women can be captains and chief engineers was a key part of the campaign. “Some people may say, ‘Why would I consider a woman to be my deckhand? I’ve never seen it. She is obviously a stewardess.’ It all comes back to the core perceptions people have about what jobs people should do based on their gender, not what they could be good at.

“It’s unconscious bias. It can even happen to me when I see a female captain – I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s so cool.’ But it shouldn’t be, it should be a normal thing.”

Read the full article in the Guardian.

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