Clare Allan started her UK cadetship in January 2016 and is in Phase 4, studying her HND at Warsash Maritime Academy in Southampton, UK, sponsored by X-Press Feeders.
What inspired you to pursue a career at sea?
I come from a family of sailors, my brother is a marine engineer and my dad has always had a love of the sea. I knew from a young age that I didn't want a regular job. Before starting my cadetship I spent three years working as a deckhand on super yachts of various sizes. I knew that I wanted to progress in my career and experience a different side to the maritime industry - that’s why I decided to start a Merchant Navy cadetship
Vessels are traditionally male orientated environments – what challenges does this present and how do you overcome them?
One of the main challenges is the old way of thinking that some people still have the idea that women are not strong enough to be on a ship or that we don't pull our weight like the other male crew members still comes up regularly. On my first sea phase I sailed with a bosun who had never sailed with a female crew member. At the end of my four months on board he told me that I put the boys to shame and that it was a pleasure sailing with me. A real can-do attitude is all you need to overcome any negative thinking, if you get stuck in and really show what you're made of, you will get the respect you deserve.
As a woman how are you supported to progress your career in this industry?
I think it’s important to build up a strong network of friends and contacts. The friendships and working relationships you build throughout your career creates a massive support system that you can rely on if needed. I’m lucky to be part of a company that believes in the progression of women in the industry and this support gives me the inspiration to do well. I can always count on my training manager Lee Clarke to give me advice and support - having people believe that you will succeed really spurs you on.
What can we do to make it easier for and encourage more women into careers at sea?
The cadetship programme is a key feature in encouraging more women into the industry. I would never have known about this career at school and I think getting more successful women to talk about their experiences would really encourage more women to consider a career at sea. It’s very important to show how the industry is changing for the better.