Anyone new to any industry would benefit from discreet conversations with an experienced mentor. For women entering the predominantly male marine industry, having access to a trusted guide is all the more vital.
To help connect women with knowledgeable allies, Soundings Trade Only has inaugurated a program to match women in the first five years of their marine careers with long-tenured industry leaders. “Women in the Industry 1+1” was founded this spring with the theme “Connecting people at the start of their marine careers with industry leaders.” It kicked off with a “Women in the Industry” Facebook Live event in June.
Michele Goldsmith, publisher of Soundings Trade Only, was inspired to create a mentoring program to aid networking and personal development. Although a woman-to-woman connection was needed, all genders were invited to participate.
The objective “is to connect people at the start of their careers with industry leaders, providing a way to learn, engage and build their network,” Goldsmith says. “People who are new sometimes are not heard or are shy in asking questions. The 1+1 program created a safe space to ask, to learn from the experience of the leader, and to hear how to navigate the industry and their careers,” she adds.
Surveys of Goldsmith’s “Women in the Industry” Facebook Live events revealed that 36 percent of participants are in their first one to five years in the marine industry. Twenty-seven percent have 20-plus years in the industry. Those statistics revealed an opportunity to facilitate introductions, knowledge-sharing and camaraderie.
Jennifer Dropski, director of marketing at Seven Lakes Marine Service in Sanbornville, N.H., says the meetings already have fostered mutual support for female marine professionals at a variety of career stages. “The most important thing is that women have other women to go to when they need answers to questions in an industry that is mainly male-dominated,” Dropski told Soundings Trade Only.
Participant feedback comments noted that 1+1 has successfully matched less-experienced women with real role models who have attained leadership status. The dedicated time together is uniquely valuable, with one recent arrival in the marine industry noting that it “fostered a space for me to connect” with an experienced leader. Others agreed, with mentees stating that the new relationships have been inspirational in their career development.
“The most valuable aspect of my conversation so far was the opportunity to directly connect with and get to know a successful marine industry leader on a personal level,” says Rebecca Lancashire, concierge specialist at KVH Superyacht Group. “Listening to my mentor describe where she came from, how many children she has, and what she likes to do when she’s not working, for example, allowed me to feel comfortable enough to ease into an open and honest discussion about my career development and the challenges I’ve come across, which I may have shied away from initially.”
Mentors and mentees reported discussing wide-ranging, career-development concerns. Some of the topics are universal and have little to do with gender. Others are more sensitive, addressing discrimination, sexual harassment and how to deal with men who presume that a woman doesn’t know much about engineering, motors or technology.
“On a personal level, we shared details about who we are as people, and on a professional level, we talked about how each of us ended up here and where we are going next,” Lancashire says. “I wasn’t afraid to share some obstacles I’ve come across in this industry, and my mentor was incredibly kind in sharing how she overcame similar obstacles in her career path.”
Already, the mentors and mentees have identified opportunities to reverse roles and help each other with expertise from inside and outside the marine community. And they soon found opportunities to transfer the knowledge to women and men back home at their companies, to improve the workplace culture for all. They also are recognizing ways to take advantage of fellow women’s experiences in other industries.
Dropski, for example, entered the boat industry in 2016 after a long career in retail, at CVS Health and Michaels crafts shops. While at CVS, she was once the only female district manager. In the 1+1 program, she has a lot to offer others from those experiences.
At the same time, Dropski says she has been inspired to “really put myself out there” and become better known in the boating community. She gave the same advice to young colleagues in New Hampshire by “helping people get through their social anxieties” and encouraging them to reach for greater achievements.
To participate in Women in the Industry 1+1, or to learn more about the mentorship activities and other initiatives, visit tradeonlytoday.com/wii.
This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue.