What an honor it is to be asked to contribute to the Sea Sisters organization! My connection to this group of ladies is quite unusual, yet such a strong example of how few of us there are in the industry. Elizabeth and I have been pen pals for four or five years now, and have yet to meet! Timing is one thing that is hard to get right in a group of mariners. You get used to chatting with your friends remotely more than you actually see them. I am not even sure how Elizabeth and I connected - maybe it was an instagram hashtag involving something with the word #tug in it... However, since we connected it’s rare to get on a tug and not be asked, “Do you know a girl with blonde hair, I think she is from San Francisco, real nice girl, she has a blog?” I immediately say, “Liz?” “Yeeeaaaah, that’s the one!”
Yes, it is a very small world, and that is the point I want to get across to newcomers. We stick out like sore thumbs.
When Elizabeth and I connected she was working down in the Caribbean, towing barges from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico, and I was on a tug running between Washington, Oregon and California. We compared stories, wages, people: the usual scuttlebutt shared among sailors. But most importantly we created a bond that is truly unforgettable. I mean, I remember what run she was on four years ago and I haven’t even met her!
Reputation is a major player and being a female in this industry means your reputation will follow you a long way. I work for one of the country’s largest tug companies and there are still only two female officers; you stand out because you're different. Everything you do, everything you say will be remembered. You can only hope you will be remembered for good reasons and not bad. It’s hard to forget one woman in a sea of hundreds of men.
So, what do you do when all eyes are on you? You do a bad ass job, that’s what you do! I think we can all agree the maritime world has yet to level out the playing field, so you have to know your job well, sometimes better than anyone, and leave no room for doubt. The best piece of advice I can give is have thick skin and be yourself.