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Paving the Way for Women Mariners

Paving the Way for Women Mariners

One of the United States Maritime Administration’s top priorities is to recruit, empower and support women in the maritime industry.

We’ve established two different diversity committees at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) to increase the number of female midshipmen and faculty members. It’s also why the Department of Transportation (DOT) has created the Women and Girls Program, which encourages women to pursue transportation careers.

MARAD recognizes that women are an untapped resource in an industry that needs new professionals. And that’s why, earlier this month, we hosted the annual Women on the Water (WOW) conference in Throggs Neck, NY.

Photo of two women mariners in front of ship

This three-day event offered a chance for young women to learn about exciting maritime careers and current issues affecting the maritime industry. Female cadets from federal and state maritime academies and colleges throughout the nation met professional women already working in the industry. By networking and hearing first-hand what it’s like for women working in this field, participants are one step ahead as they enter the working world.

Through the WOW conference, Women in Transportation Careers, and other DOT outreach programs, the Department has made significant strides in attracting more women to careers in transportation.

We see the effects in the maritime industry. Although women remain a minority, they’re in key positions like we’ve never seen before.

For example, women recently made-up the entire leadership team aboard the 800-foot container ship, Horizon Spirit, with females occupying its top three bridge posts. This ship carried 900 containers with a 25-member crew from the Port of Los Angeles to Honolulu Harbor. Although not the norm, all female teams reflect the gains women have made in maritime.

Photo of women aboard the U.S.S. Schirra

Just look at the Military Sealift Command (MSC) vessel the USS Wally Schirra.  There were enough women aboard to staff the replenishment fuel team for the Guided Missile destroyer USS Truxton in the Arabian Gulf. And earlier this year at MARAD, we were proud to welcome Rear Admiral Susan L. Dunlap as the first female Deputy Superintendent at USMMA.

These women are paving a path for the next wave of young women who will follow in their footsteps.  I have no doubt women will continue to transform the maritime industry. And MARAD will be there to encourage and support their progress.

Photo of Rear Admiral Susan Dunlap
U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Deputy Superintendent RADM Susan Dunlap.

Chip Jaenichen is Acting Administrator of the Maritime Administration.

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In 1994 we had a female Chief Mate (me) a female 2nd Mate, and a female 3rd Mate, onboard the S.S. MANULANI. The problem is that these events are few and far between. The numbers of women at most of the maritime academies have either dropped or remained steady. We need to make a real effort to recruit and retain women, not just hold conferences and pat ourselves on the back. The maritime industry has not made the same strides over the last 40 years as other industries that were also predominantly male. We are doing something wrong and we need to find out what that is and change it.
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