New maritime women’s group offers support in male-centric field
From the conference floor to the back office to the shipyard and the boats themselves, the maritime sector remains a male-dominated world.
But plenty of women work in this field, and a new nonprofit has launched to provide them with networking, education and career support that might not be readily available. The goal of Women in Maritime Operations, or WIMOs, is to ensure female employees get a seat at the table.
“We thought it would start small, but it turns out it’s starting pretty big,” said WIMOs founder Kasey Eckstein, who works in sales and marketing for Paducah, Ky.-based Marquette Transportation. “I just realized how much one female can affect another female in a positive way, and wanted to give that opportunity to other females working in the industry.”
The nonprofit organization came together in late 2017 through the efforts of Eckstein and co-founder Jenna Gaudet, chief financial officer at St. John Fleeting of Garyville, La. Word spread quickly and WIMOs has grown to more than 110 dues-paying members representing at least 40 companies.
They said the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people tell them such an organization is long overdue.
“Because the industry has been dominated by men for so long, we are starting (an organization) for women in operations to get to know each other, learn from each other and discuss shared experiences we have as women in the industry,” Gaudet said.
The idea for an industry group for women emerged from Eckstein’s own positive interactions. While training in dispatch at Marquette Transportation, she recalled how the other female dispatcher, Whitney Cruse, provided instrumental guidance and support. As her career has advanced, Eckstein said she’s realized many women lack female mentors.
“Many women are the only females in their entire department, and if that’s the case we want to give them that camaraderie we deserve to have in this industry,” she said.
Attracting more women to industry functions such as trade shows and golf tournaments is an early focus for the group. Many women don’t know these events are happening, and others might feel intimidated if they expect few other women will attend.
“There have been countless times I am the only female golfer in the tournament,” Eckstein said. “And as much as I love winning the women’s longest-drive award every time, there is no way there aren’t other women who want to be out there. A lot of it is as simple as inviting women to events, and we are going to when we hear of them.”
WIMOs has begun offering its members free or reduced-price golf lessons to improve their swing and overall game. The hope is that more women will play in industry tournaments or fundraisers.
The organization is governed by a five-member board composed of Eckstein and Gaudet; Anna Hogan, who works in operations at Mid-Ship Group of Port Washington, N.Y.; April-Hope Wareham, a production supervisor at Cargill in Westwego, La.; and Alice Momenee, a senior analyst for Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum.
Early sponsors include ES&H, headquartered in Lakeway, Texas, which is supporting WIMOs’ first golf clinic, and Turn Services, which sponsored a WIMOs golf team in a March tournament.
Eckstein and Gaudet expect the organization will continue to grow, but they want to make sure it happens in an orderly way. The New Orleans chapter is already running, and chapters also are scheduled to launch soon in Paducah, Ky., and Houston.