Encouraging young women to embark on maritime careers
(September 22, 2022) Madaket Marine CEO Catherine Slattery hopes a week-long science, technology, engineering and math camp in Nantucket will turn into careers on the water for the young women who participated in the program at the end of last month.
Called Captain’s Academy, the program provided approximately 10 teenage girls with a week of hands-on experience driving boats, snorkeling in Madaket Harbor and other water-related activities as Slattery and the camp director Skylah Reis seek to address the disparity between men and women in the maritime field.
“Of the 1.2 billion sailors in the world, only 2% are women and these young women are learning to sail, not to be afraid of the water and they will be the next captains of our future,” Slattery said.
A Harvard graduate working on a master’s degree in marine biology, Reis led the girls, ages 13 to 15, in a series of lectures and educational demonstrations that saw campers learn how to maintain an upweller to grow seashells, meet the all-female sailboat crew Young lady, who finished second in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989 and 1990, and speaking to the Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s team of women scientists.
“It’s all about comfort and seeing someone who looks like you in some way doing something you’re hoping to do. A big thing with camp is making sure that when the girls are on the ship, she’s a female captain. Anytime they see someone interfacing with one of the maritime jobs, it’s a female,” Reis said. Many of the attendees were graduates of Sea Lab, a marine and aquatic environmental studies program offered by New Bedford Public Schools. A New Bedford native and Sea Lab graduate herself, Reis said Nantucket was the perfect place to camp.
“We saw it in Madaket Harbor this morning, there’s such a biodiversity of marine life, there’s so many different organisms to get our hands on. In New Bedford at least, we don’t have any. not always. We don’t have a harbor with that much biodiversity. You have to get on a boat and go somewhere, you can’t always get in the water and see everything, so Madaket Harbor is perfect for that. is like our own little aquarium,” Reis said.
The Captains Academy has been designed to cover all aspects of STEM, with an emphasis on maritime pursuits. The girls learned how to navigate using GPS, find fish with SONAR, code their dive survey results, and analyze how to run a business profitably by viewing an income statement and balance sheet.
“The whole point of this program is to show these girls a bunch of careers they could pursue and to introduce them to people in those fields. It’s coming from a marine biologist like me, but also from a woman harbor master like we have in Nantucket,” Reis said.
Funding for the program came in part from the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce last year business pitch contest, where Slattery won second place and $5,000. Slattery said the funding paid for Reis’ salary, with the rest taken care of by Madaket Marine.
“I had been dreaming about this educational program for eight years and I made a little sketch of what it looked like and then I made a brochure and when I saw the pitch competition I knew it was going to happen. would require taking it a step further and codifying exactly what I wanted to achieve and what I needed for support. Because I had to stand up and tell people what it was all about, that made me closer to a reality,” Slattery said.
This year’s pitch competition will take place on October 8 at Dreamland Theater.