Today we celebrate International Women’s Day, a worldwide initiative to recognize women for their achievements, regardless of their area of expertise. Women play an important role in every sector and walk of life, and today is the day that we take a moment to acknowledge the vital role that humans who identify as women play in our society.
At Prince of Whales we have a unique perspective to offer due to the fact that our industry has traditionally been male dominated. When you think of a marine worker, chances are you’re picturing a salty man, young or old, but almost certainly with a beard. And while having a beard is definitely a huge benefit for keeping your face warm, turns out it does not actually qualify you to operate a boat!
Prior to the 1900’s, women on boats were quite rare, and often considered bad luck. The most common incidents of women on vessels involved being married to, or daughter of, the captain, or else a case of false identity, as many women would sneak aboard for work, pretending to be men. Either way, these women were not permitted in leadership roles. There are notable exceptions of course, including my favourite, the story of Mary Patten. At 19 years old (and 4 months pregnant!) Mary took command of her husband’s clippership after he collapsed during a storm off Cape Horn during the crossing from New York to San Francisco. She navigated the ship safely to San Francisco with the help of the second mate and full support of the crew.
During the First and Second World Wars new roles were opened up to women as working men were sent to the front lines, which greatly changed the dynamic of the workforce. But still, the marine industry remained more of a boy’s club.
Today, that is changing, slowly but surely. When I started in the industry at a different company, I was the only woman working on the water in any capacity; all my crewmates and captains were male. When I went to nautical school for my Master Ltd. 60-ton ticket (that’s captain for you landlovers), I was the only woman in the course! However, with more women are attending university than ever before, we are seeing more and more science focussed female applicants keen to get on the water and learn the boating side of the whale watching industry. Today we are happy to employ numerous female deckhands/naturalists, first mates, zodiac skippers, and senior staff!
Given that we are first and foremost a wildlife based company, we’d be lying if we said we are not constantly influenced by the natural world around us, and for that reason, to us this is not just International Women’s Day, but Female’s Day! The female animals we observe are truly an inspiration for us.
Orcas in particular show us not only the incredible role females can play in their environment, but how we can better structure society to encourage that role. In orcas, the females are the unquestionable leaders. The oldest female leads her family, her pod, and her clan. Mothers look after their children, but also make decisions that affect the wellbeing of all pod members, and this role does not end after a female has fulfilled her reproductive capacity. As one of the only mammals to go through menopause and survive long after child-bearing years, female orcas are relied upon for they wisdom well into old age.
So on this Women’s Day, we encourage you to honour and respect the women in your life, as well as make yourself aware of where we can continue to improve. And if you ever need inspiration, look to the orcas; they are great moms AND invaluable leaders!
By Jennifer Dickson
You go girls.