At the time of writing, only 12% of the 82 registered Certified Marina Managers are women which could be construed as a slightly lopsided gender representation…
Data is not yet available reflecting gender employment in the industry from bodies such as the European Boating Industry or British Marina Federation, but is there cause for concern?
Within the TransEurope Marinas network, where women occupy a slightly more healthy 16% of the top managerial positions, in addition to two female harbour masters, these marinas are notably amongst some of the most successful, demonstrating positive customer responses and an assured trajectory; almost all of them having been awarded either four or five Gold Anchors or the Blue Flag.
To help contribute towards a better understanding of the situation, ten women in senior roles within member marinas completed a survey. Exploring barriers that might prevent women from progressing to top level jobs in the industry, those surveyed were asked why they considered gender inequality to be so predominant in the nautical sphere. Perhaps surprisingly, given the figures, they were mostly pretty stoical about the gender gap, perceiving a significant shift in the last decade towards an increase in women in the sector.
It is worth recalling at this point that TransEurope Marinas began as a cooperative network of primarily family-run marinas, seeking to bolster commercial competitivity against the threat of larger chains. Currently half of the group’s female managers come from family-run marinas, with some having grown up in a marina environment. This familiarity with every aspect of the business has afforded them a very valuable perspective.
When asked what they considered to be their most important contribution to their business, almost all responses involved customer service. Beyond this, refurbishment of facilities, training, improved sales and staff training all followed. Interestingly, when viewed from a visitor perspective, the location was the most commonly perceived attraction together with the appeal of a facility that was visibly well cared for and offered plenty of good services. Managers described receiving feedback from berth-holders and visitors that valued comfort and security, professionalism, flexibility and customer care.
Proposals for how best to attract more women to marina employment including tackling existing gender perceptions of the type of work involved and an apparent lack of opportunities for women. Flexible working hours and weekend child-care were mentioned and some proposed wording job advertisements differently. A popular response drew on the need for more accessibly-priced training qualification options to bolster skills and increase confidence. A lack of women role-models was another compelling observation and it is perhaps time to give more credit to some impressive stories.
As a response, TransEurope Marinas has agreed to continue looking at how best to encourage women to find employment in marinas and plans to help sponsor some of the group’s staff members taking part in the next IMM course in La Certosa, Venice this coming October as a means of facilitating costs and encouraging participation.
A more carefully considered gender perspective could help us give more credence to women’s roles in the industry and prevent reinforcing a belief that men are perhaps better suited to marina management. Across the board, women are seen to be modernising the marina business model to reflect one that is more oriented towards customer service and improved sales and visibility. There is a tangible focus on visitor well-being and comfort and particularly within family-run marinas, a strong sense of community with additional sports and leisure facilities provided to improve the customer experience. All of this demonstrably reflects very positively on the industry, helping to ensure a sustainable future.