Crew Compass: Hiring based solely on looks

Apr 15, 2019 by Lauren Loudon

Crew Compass: by Lauren Loudon

It’s that time of year when boats are winding down from their winter Caribbean season and preparing for the summer, while the Med-based boats are preparing to come out of winter mode and start thinking about the upcoming season. That often means that the winterized skeleton needs to find its missing parts and crew need to be hired. By the same token, I have had a lovely winter and am getting my documents in order to start the search for my next role. In doing so, I have come to notice several points that have stood out.

The main thing that’s cropped up and had an impact for me is the posts that I have been noticing on Facebook. There are positions posted that are, understandably, gender specific because of cabin arrangements, but this is something that doesn’t happen in other industries. Similarly, it seems that while experience is important to employers, your appearance is the most vital factor of all. Do you fit the bill? Sometimes, they want to know quite literally whether you’ll fit, but not with the crew, not fit in the sense of a missing puzzle piece – they want to know if you’ll fit into a certain dress size. Is it really okay to discriminate on the basis of somebody’s size?

I’ve seen adverts asking for a specific size “because we only have size 2 skorts on board.” I’ve heard of boats recruiting only blond stewardesses. I know a guy who was turned down at the face-to-face interview because he wasn’t tall enough.

When signing up to crew agents, we have to specify every detail of ourselves in order to have a “complete” profile and will not be considered without all information – from every tattoo and every piercing we have, to our dress size, eye color, height and weight.

For the most part, tattoos are taboo. But why? We are who we are, and a little bit of ink we may have chosen to stamp on ourselves makes us, us.

Beards? Hell, no. Although I’ve seen a lot more men with stubble on their chins and ink on their arms in recent observations than five years ago, when I first started out in the industry.

On the topic of hair, I saw a very popular post on one of the Facebook groups for yachties a while back relating to a young girl with dreadlocks who was looking to join the industry and wanted advice. There were more than one hundred comments in just a few hours, and I had to stop and read. Almost every single person told the girl that she appeared too “dirty” and that dreadlocks are absolutely unacceptable in the yachting industry.

What really blew me away, and made me think more about this whole subject, was when very recently, on another of the Facebook groups, somebody had put a candidate forward for a position who, on paper, fit the bill perfectly – but who ended up being rejected because of skin color. In 2019, right here in front of our eyes, this is happening.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: To what extent do you listen to these guidelines? Do you change who you are for a job? And I don’t mean going to the extent of lasering off a tattoo simply because a potential employer won’t like it. But I did have a friend who had to wake up an hour earlier every day to apply layers and layers of specific makeup to cover a large tattoo on the back of her leg, and another who went on a strict diet after being turned down because of her size.

This extreme superficiality is something that doesn’t get spoken about enough in the industry, and I don’t think anybody realizes how damaging it is – not only to individuals, but to the reputation of the boats in question.

Our gender, looks, skin color, ink, height or weight do not define us as an individual or as a crew member. None of these factors make us any more employable, less capable or otherwise handicapped. They do not make us bad people or legends. They make us who we are,  and we should all be embraced for our uniqueness when being considered for candidacy, without reservations because of our external bodies.

Lauren Loudon has worked as a yacht chef for more than four years. She hails from Lancashire, England. Comments are welcome below.