Why do you think it’s important to celebrate International Woman’s Day?
I believe it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day so that we can educate and inspire women into careers that are predominately male dominated environments. I have recently joined a charity called Women Offshore which provides a great amount of knowledge and inspiration for any woman working offshore and the issues we face. It’s all about women inspiring others to do things that maybe years ago through tradition was not possible.
What were your motivations to join the Offshore Survey Industry, and how did you get started?
My parents are my biggest role models and have always motivated me to do something I enjoy. My dad is a surveyor himself and he ignited my life-long passion for the marine environment from teaching me to swim/snorkel at a young age. This inspired me to go to university and undertake a degree in Marine Geography. This is where I initially learnt about the offshore industry and thought a life at sea would be interesting which it most definitely has been!
Did you have any obstacles in the way?
The biggest obstacle for me to go offshore was my family. I was very close to my Nan so I didn’t go into the offshore world until she passed away. I went into the industry a few years later than the majority of my friends. I had to then accept that I was behind my friends in my career but wouldn’t have changed it for the world as my Nan was very precious to me.
Have you had to make any trade-offs or sacrifices to get to where you are today?
Of course! With working away at sea for periods of time you do miss special events like christenings, weddings, birthdays and family Christmases. Due to the nature of the industry you end up living a very different lifestyle (long shifts, loud environments, small living spaces) that others may not understand because it’s not the typical 9-5 lifestyle that the majority of my friends and family experience. A lot of people think its glamourous travelling the world but it’s not always the case, sometimes it’s just airport-port-ship-airport-home. COVID has made travelling to jobs more complex but in a way made offshore lifestyle more ‘normal’ as we are used to living on a boat which is a form of quarantine just with 30 other men and no wine.
And is it all worth it?
Yes of course it is otherwise I wouldn’t still be going to sea. I did question it at times when working as a staff surveyor, where I was working lots of days away and on some dodgy ships. However when you see amazing sights like dolphins or just get a calm sea and spectacular sunset it all feels just right. Also, now I am freelance I have never looked back as I can now work what jobs I want, when I want. After this job that I am currently on in Tasmania, Australia I am going to chase the sun and travel Australia for a month which is definitely a perk and highlight of the job.
Have you had any experiences where you feel you were treated differently?
As a woman offshore it can be quite difficult to be seen as equal, especially when I am often the only woman on the ship. I have had all sorts, from men not listening to what I am saying/taking direction to some outright saying women shouldn’t be on the deck helping. On the latter occasion it was a bit of a cultural difference as we were deploying equipment and I spoke up when it was being done the wrong way. Once he knew I brought something to the team he apologised and thanked me. It’s still a male dominated world (and its natural instinct for men to help women) but if you just behave as an equal and prove your worth you are soon accepted as one of the ‘lads’. I don’t have an issue with being the only woman on board as I am often accepted as equal and they will even turn off top gear and watch the odd chick flick with me from time to time.
What further actions would you like to see in your industry to create more equality?
This is a tricky one. Even though offshore is a male dominated industry they do try to make the environment comfortable for women crew and there is also equality in pay. The main thing would be to further educate girls in schools to the options available (especially in male dominated fields) so they have the confidence and knowledge to go down that path. Also to get rid of some of the old fashioned values that stop women developing in the field, for example, that you can’t have kids and work offshore (I have been told many times). Times are changing and I do believe the offshore industry is still behind however, I find the charity Women Offshore is doing a great job to educate/inspire others about these issues.
What advice would you give your younger self or to young women starting their careers?
I for one care too much of what other people think of me and at 33 I am just now understanding that it doesn’t really matter as long as you do your best and appreciate yourself. So the advice I would give is just go for it and follow the path you want to go down with confidence. A quote I often believe in is: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”