On International Women’s Day, it is worth stopping to celebrate the contributions of the growing numbers of women making their mark in maritime.
Particularly in the areas of crewing and training, decision makers are increasingly likely to be female, bringing perspectives and approaches that have the potential to benefit the whole industry.
One such trailblazer is Emilie Donovan, training manager at AMC Search, a maritime training provider and the training and consulting division of the Australian Maritime College.
With two decades in the maritime industry and a consuming passion for fishing, Emilie lives and breathes maritime.
On a sunny Sunday in February, she watched as her 9-year-old son reeled in a 110kg shortfin mako shark from the family’s Whitepointer boat during a fishing competition.
It was an impressive catch but otherwise a fairly typical scene for the fishing-mad family, who love to spend weekends and holidays cruising Tasmania’s coastline in in pursuit of bluefin tuna, mako shark and swordfish.
The next day, Emilie was back at her desk hundreds of kilometres to the north in Launceston, where she manages more than 180 types of maritime training course – plus many more designed each year for individual clients.
Later in the week she flew to Sydney to observe an autonomous underwater vehicle training course as it was being delivered to the Royal Australian Navy and the following month she was off to Jakarta to discuss maritime training with Indonesian industry reps.
At this pace, it is clear her role is not for the faint of heart. Particularly when you throw in training centres in two states – Tasmania and New South Wales – and Emilie’s regular engagement with around 60 corporate clients.
Thankfully, energy is something she has in spades, along with enthusiasm for the industry she has worked in since she began as an office junior some 20 years ago.
“Working in maritime is so rewarding primarily because of the wonderful people you meet who are so passionate about what they do,” Emilie said.
“If you love being on or around the water in any capacity, you couldn’t hope to work in a better sector. We’ve been through some tough times as an industry, but the dedication and commitment of the people we work with never fails to amaze me.”
While she’s spent her career in a traditionally male dominated sector, in recent years Emilie has found herself surrounded by more and more capable women.
“I’ve always loved the environment and the people we work with, although 20 years ago most of our stakeholders were certainly male,” she said.
“Things are quite different now. Not only am I surrounded by lots of fantastic women in the training team at AMC Search, but many more of the crewing and training managers we deal with are now female, too.
“I think it’s fantastic that women are better represented in maritime. It’s good for everyone in the industry to have a better balance and different perspectives.”
While Emilie clearly juggles a lot, spending plenty of time interstate and in Asia, Emilie describes her role primarily as “listening”.
“We have wonderful clients and understanding their needs is at the heart of what we do. This means a lot of listening, and then working with our industry experts to pull together something that meets the client’s exact needs,” she said.
When it comes off, it is rewarding; Emilie gives an example of working with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to develop a training course to help NSW firefighters from their Hazardous Noxious Substance Response Team assess hazardous substances at sea.
If a demanding job and a serious hobby weren’t enough, Emilie somehow finds the time to be an upstanding member of her community, sitting on the committees of two fishing associations and acting as treasurer for the board of a local school.
She’s also nearing completion of a Graduate Certificate in Maritime and Logistics Management from the Australian Maritime College.
“Combining work and study is tough, particularly with a young family, but the opportunity to study something so relevant was too good to turn down,” she said.
“My studies have definitely helped me to better understand our clients’ businesses as well as to approach my work at AMC Search with a more strategic focus.”
Putting management and leadership skills into practice has been a constant over the last few years as, under Emilie’s guidance, AMC Search has navigated a changing maritime training landscape.
To meet customer demand, the company has expanded its online courses, begun delivering face-to-face training in Darling Harbour, Sydney, and entered into partnerships with specialist organisations such as the Institute for Drone Technology to deliver non-traditional maritime training.
“Change has been a constant but the heart of what we do remains the same: provide the training that maritime organisations need to thrive, both now and in the future,” she said.
As someone who so clearly lives and breathes the industry, it may well be a remit that keeps Emilie happily occupied and celebrating at least another twenty International Women’s Days in maritime.