My 13-year-old cousin Alexia, who is in 8th grade, contacted me recently because at school they ask them to write a paper on gender inequality. The instructions for the essay were that they had to interview a women in business, and I am super honored that she contacted me and asked me the following questions:
- Do you feel like there is an equality in your industry?
The yachting industry is definitely a male-dominated industry. Most women who work in this industry have a very ‘female’ role like secretaries, hostess, marketing or yacht charter. Unfortunately, there are only very few women with top senior positions. I am very lucky to be one of the few women in power, I think out of 100 shipyards, there are only 3 other women with a role as Commercial Director.
- What do you think is the ratio of women to men in the yachting industry?
I work for a shipyard, 98% of the time I am the only female in the board room. In about 90% of the sales meetings I am also the only woman.
In our shipyard there are some women but I would say that 3/10 women are female.
- Do you think it has been harder for you to get where you are compared to a man?
Being a woman you have to work harder, and do the job twice. First, you need to prove yourself, gain respect, let them know that you are worthy, be credible that you know what you are talking about, and THEN… you can do the job. Definitely the career ladder has been a lot harder for me as a woman than it would be for a man.
- Has anyone ever not wanted to work with you or be your client because you are a woman? If so, please explain.
Yes, many times. It also depends on the culture, for example, Chinese businessmen do not like working with women. Even if I am the commercial director they would prefer to talk to someone below my position just for the fact that they can talk to a man.
Once in a boat show a Chinese man wanted to buy a yacht, he came up to me and asked for the commercial director, I replied ‘How can I help you? You can talk to me, what yacht are you interested” he refused to answer and kept on asking to speak to another person. Clearly he just didn’t want to speak to a girl. Also, I found that being pretty is a weakness because men can’t take you seriously, they think pretty girls are only good for being hostesses or ‘eye-candy’ but not good to talk business.
There is the stereotype that Middle Easterns dont like (nor respect women) but that is not true. At least in the Industry I work, I deal mainly with HNWI who are well educated and most of them studied in USA or in London and are pretty open minded and well educated. They support their daughters and employ women in power. I have never had any issues doing business in the Middle East.
Russians do business mainly with men. They don’t think a woman ‘is worth their attention’ of course this is a generalization, there might be Russian men who are comfortable doing business with men, but in my experience I had a Russian owner telling me ‘the problem with you is that you are woman, and you are too emotional. My suggestion for you is to do your job and keep your opinions to yourself’ he didn’t listen to my advice and now he is paying the consequences. I met with his ‘owners rep’ who did some due diligence in the company, and he reported to him exactly what I had told him, but because it came from a man, he listened. I can’t wait to meet him again and tell him ‘I told you’ and now he will realize that it is too late, he should have listened to me.
Other people (sales brokers for example) would go on my back, and think they can go straight to my boss for a ‘better’ answer. My boss would then decide with me on the answer and he will transmit the message (which was created by me)
- Do you feel you are paid the same as a man in the same position?
Fortunately, I work for a company in the Netherlands which is very fair in gender equality.
. I would say that I make the same as my male counterpart. However, I am sure that if I would work in a more ‘macho’ country like France, Italy, USA, or Latin America I would probably be making 30% less than my male counterpart.
- Have you ever felt harassed by a man?
Too many times, unfortunately. When I started in the industry I was a global sales rep, I would have to meet purchase managers in a different shipyard to sell them my product. Many times they would say I have no time to meet you during the day because I am too busy, but I am happy to meet you for an after-work drink or to take you out for dinner. I was young and naive and I would accept the invitation because it was a ‘business meeting’ and I had to learn the hard way that many men tried to make unacceptable advancements, vulgar jokes, try to get touchy, comment about the way you look or even indirectly threaten ‘if you don’t go out for diner with me, I won’t buy your product’
- What would you change about the industry to make it more equal and fair?
For men to take women more seriously, respect them and admire them.
For men to understand that I am not just a pretty- face that I worked hard to get where I am, I invested in my education, knowledge, and professional network.
Women are not there only to serve you coffee
I would like to see more female naval architects, engineers, project managers, captains, deck hand, CEO’s, business development, Sales Directors and remove the ‘gender jobs’
My husband once told me ‘You are more intelligent than I am, you are truly capable and competent to do my job, I dont understand why would you ever doubt about making less money than me just because you are woman’ It was shocking to hear but he is right, as women we always think that our husbands should make more money or that males make more money but if we are competent, there is no reasons to be asking for less.
If you would like to add anything else, be free to write anything else.
I would like women to be braver, don’t be afraid to ask for a pay-rise, get the confidence to gain respect from men, I want them to know that YES YOU CAN! I am glad I can be that role model of a woman achieving career goals. It is possible to be pretty and smart it is possible to be a mom and a professional.