Launched last year, Women in Maritime Operations aims to provide industry women with support
Professionals in maritime-related businesses, Kasey Eckstein, director of outside sales and business development at Marquette Transportation, and Jenna Gaudet, CFO at St. John Fleeting, said they often found themselves as the only women at industry events.
“Too many times I’ve been the only female at an event with over 100 men, and I realized that there’s no way there’s not another woman in our industry that would’ve liked to be there and probably just didn’t know about it for one reason or another,” said Eckstein.
Knowing there were more women than they were seeing represented, Eckstein and Gaudet decided to create an organization to empower women in the maritime industry to expand their networks, provide and receive mentoring, and grow their careers. Women in Maritime Operations (WIMOs) was founded in July 2017.
“A big initiative of WIMOs is to keep our members informed, invited and included,” said Eckstein, who serves as the organization’s president. “If you do not know about an industry event, then you cannot ask to go to the event, therefore you will not be at the event. We are going to inform each other about events and encourage each other to go to them because, not only is it fun, it’s also good for your career no matter what you do at your company.”
The 501(c)3 organization is open to women who are actively employed in the maritime industry, including those who own, operate, charter, dispatch or provide other types of logistical, operational and emergency management services on the water. WIMOs is dedicated to retaining, advancing, and promoting women in the maritime industry through sharing knowledge and continuing education.
“In our industry, your network can be almost as valuable as your skills,” Eckstein said. “That is why attending industry events is so important. Every event that you attend is an opportunity to expand your network, enhance your networking skills and learn something new. All of these things build confidence and better your career, and that’s what WIMOs is all about.”
As evidence of the need for such an organization, Eckstein said WIMOs already boasts 38 member companies — including Associated Terminals, Marathon Petroleum, the Port of New Orleans and the Port of South Louisiana — along with over 100 individual members from women all over the country.
“And we haven’t even done any recruiting,” she said. “Everything thus far has been word of mouth.” New Orleans is home to the organization’s founding chapter, but WIMOs already has plans in place to launch chapters in other maritime cities. An executive board has currently been established for a Houston chapter and leadership is being put in place for chapters in St. Louis and Nashville.
A major motivator for WIMOs’ start, said Eckstein, was to build amity among her peers.
“Although I am good friends with certain men in the industry, I still was not ever going to get to the same level of closeness that they have with one another because I am a woman,” she said. “I don’t blame it on anything but biology, as it’s only natural to feel more comfortable with someone of the same gender. I just want that same sense of camaraderie that my male counterparts have, and I think all women in maritime do. I think that establishing WIMOs and openly acknowledging some of the barriers that women encounter is motivating other women and men in our industry to help. We’re changing all of this – we invite, inform, educate and provide mentorship for women who want it.”
Annual WIMOs dues are $200 per individual or $1,500 for corporations, which allows membership for eight or more individuals. The all-inclusive membership includes admission to WIMOs events — including “Lunch ‘n’ Learns” at a member company’s office to discuss pertinent maritime topics — as well as outings to shipping operations where members may tour fleets, locks, boats, terminals and more, and quarterly chapter meetings.
The organization is also in the process of constructing a website, WIMOS.org, and an app. Both will feature a password-protected membership directory, to include member photos alongside their subject matter expertise — an idea designed to allow members to recognize and remember other members much easier — and a calendar of chapter- and industry-related events.
Mentorship is another important WIMOs initiative.
“Due to our industry being very ‘male-dominated,’ as a female it can be hard to find someone to take you under their wing, Eckstein said. “A young woman might feel more comfortable asking another woman for advice. This is where our mentorship program comes into play — we will have a membership directory and women with a high level of experience will note in their bio that they’re open to mentoring. This way other WIMOs know who they can reach out to with questions.”
Eckstein said another major component of WIMOs membership will be helping members develop their skills on the greens, since many maritime industry events tend to be golf tournaments. The group is offering sponsored golf clinics for members who want to learn. In mid-March, a golf pro led the first WIMOs golf clinic at no charge to members. To accommodate varying schedules, there were morning and afternoon sessions that included an hour-and-a-half lesson followed by a nine-hole round, and an evening after-work session with lessons only.
Turn Services also sponsored a WIMOs team in its Annual Glenn Otero Golf Tournament this past February so that women could play together in foursomes.
“While I love winning ladies longest drive at these tournaments, it will be nice to have more competition at these events,” Eckstein said.
SAVE THE DATE
As part of its mission, WIMOs encourages support and donations to maritime-related charities.
This September, members will travel to Cincinnati to participate in Living Lands & Waters’ annual river cleanup.
“WIMOs will be paying for the lodging on this trip, and women from all over the industry and country will attend,” said Kasey Eckstein, WIMOs’ founder and president. “The plan is to have members arrive the evening before for a group dinner and socializing, and we’ll all work the cleanup the next day on LL&W’s boat and barges.”
Headquartered in East Moline, Ill., Living Lands & Waters is a 501(c)(3) environmental organization dedicated to “industrial strength” cleanups of the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
Since the organization was founded in 1998, Living Lands & Waters has worked on 23 rivers in 20 states, and with the help of more than 100,000 volunteers, it has removed 9.2 million pounds of debris from U.S. waterways. In 2017, 1,938 volunteers removed 441,667 pounds of garbage during 60 community cleanups.
The WIMOs Executive Board
Women In Maritime Operations, or WIMOs, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to retaining, advancing and promoting women in the maritime industry through sharing knowledge and continuing education. The executive board of its founding New Orleans chapter includes:
President & Founder Kasey Eckstein, director of outside sales and business development at Marquette Transportation
Vice President Anna Hogan, operations at MID-SHIP Logistics
Vice President Alice Momenee, senior analyst of marine transportation – commercial development at Marathon Petroleum
Secretary April-Hope Wareham, production superviser at Cargill
Treasurer & Co-Founder Jenna Gaudet, CFO at St. John Fleeting