Closing the Gender Gap at Sea: The Celebrity Cruises Team

Celebrity Cruises has been making history for years, creating opportunities for women in an industry that has been dominated by their male counterparts for far too long. Lisa Luttof-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, has focused on closing the gender gap at sea since she took office.

RSM #IWDleader Hall of Fame

RSM #IWDleader Hall of Fame

She believes that having women at the table is key to any organization. She has been a part of Celebrity since 2006, and “paying it forward” by helping other women find their place is something she’s passionate about.

Her commitment to making this happen can be seen across the fleet. Since she became President and CEO, Lisa has increased the percentage of women on the bridge from 3 to 23%. Only a 2% of mariners in the world are women, which makes these ladies and their efforts to carve a place for a more diverse and inclusive workforce even more admirable. These are remarkable women changing the maritime industry and creating opportunities to close the enormous gender gap that exists.

Captain Kate McCue, the first female American Captain of a cruise ship, shares her life as a Captain on Instagram, hoping to get other women interested in life at sea. Nathaly Alban, the first woman to serve as Captain in the Galapagos Islands, has loved sailing since she was a kid and feels that life on land is too simple in contrast. For Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, the first female cadet to emerge from a partnership between Celebrity Cruises and the Regional Maritime University in Ghana, sailing is a dream come true. One she has worked for tirelessly.

For relentlessly working towards closing the gender gap, making history and encouraging other women to join the maritime industry and help reshape it, we honor the women of Celebrity Cruises with the first-ever Hall of Fame Women Ensemble Award.

In 2020 we honor the unstoppable Celebrity Cruises team with the first ever Hall of Fame Ensemble Award

In 2020 we honor the unstoppable Celebrity Cruises team with the first ever Hall of Fame Ensemble Award

Closing the gender gap at sea starts with the CEO

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises

Lisa Lutoff Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises is closing the gender gap at sea

Lisa Lutoff Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises is closing the gender gap at sea

Red Shoe Movement – Why do women make great leaders? 

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo – I really don’t like to generalize about anyone, including women. What I will say about the women who are the right and great leaders is that they do the same things any other great leader does: They accomplish great things. They have a vision. They get results. They transform their business. But they do it differently because they bring the attributes to the position that are unique to being a woman.  Empathy, emotional intelligence, a higher level of holistic thinking to the problem, diverse voices and thoughts at the table. And leading with their hearts, not just their heads, which encourages discretionary effort from those who work under their leadership – and that’s priceless.

RSM – Can you share the story of a male champion who supported your ambitions along the way?

LLP – My first male champion was the SVP of Sales & Marketing at Royal Caribbean International, Dan Hanrahan. He came into the company and identified me as a person (who happens to be a woman) with great potential. He challenged me to utilize my talents more broadly and moved me into marketing. While I didn’t believe so at the time, it was the best thing that happened in my career and was the beginning of a long and winding journey and experience that all contributed to my ability to become the President & CEO of Celebrity Cruises.

Dan was also my champion by promoting me to my first Corporate Officer role as VP of Onboard Revenue for Celebrity and two years later to SVP of Hotel Operations for Celebrity. He not only gave me different opportunities within Royal Caribbean, but he also continued to champion me after he moved into the President & CEO of Celebrity role. He actually held the same position I hold now before he left the company in 2012. I will forever be grateful to him and he is still a friend and mentor.

RSM – As a leader, what are you specifically doing to level the playing field for women?

LLP – My first experience with being the first woman to hold a position in the company was in 2005 when I was appointed as VP, Onboard Revenue. I was also the first woman to lead Hotel Operations for Celebrity, the first woman to lead the Marine and Hotel Operations for Royal Caribbean, the first woman President & CEO in our company and C-Suite and the first and only woman to run a Global Marine Organization in our industry (I lead this organization as well as Celebrity Cruises). While I have been with the company for 35 years, it wasn’t until 2005 and the first operational role that I realized that gender inequality was an issue. A big issue. Ever since that day I have felt it is my obligation, responsibility and opportunity to help women advance in areas of our industry and operation that have been historically held by men.

The best example I have of that is that since I have held this position (5 years) we have raised the number of women on our bridges across the fleet from 3% to 23%. Only 2% of mariners in the world are women, so this is a huge accomplishment and my team deserves all the credit for it. We hired the first American woman to ever be the Captain of a cruise ship (she still is) and the first African woman (Ghana) to work on the bridge of a cruise ship. Our efforts in finding great women for our bridges is being celebrated on International Women’s Day (March 8th), when we will offer a barrier-breaking and history-making cruise with an all-female bridge team on Celebrity Edge. No one has ever done this before, and no one else is currently able to do this. We have led the way and the industry. What better day to celebrate this as we celebrate women around the world and all they have accomplished?

Don't miss Lisa Lutoff-Perlo's crown-jewel accomplishment: designing a new ship class: Edge

Kate McCue, Captain, Celebrity Cruises

Kate McCue, Captain, Celebrity Edge

Kate McCue, Captain, Celebrity Edge

RSM – As a leader, what are you specifically doing to level the playing field for women?

KMC – It is important to highlight and celebrate the “wins,” whether it be small, like conducting their first briefing, or substantial, like performing their first ship departure maneuver.  It builds confidence in the individual and solidarity in the team.

RSM – Can you share the story of a male champion who supported your ambitions along the way?

KMC – Our Senior Vice President of Global Marine Operations, Captain Patrik Dahlgren, and our Associate Vice President Celebrity Marine Operations, Captain Manolis Alevropoulos, who are both fathers to daughters are also leaders and peers who I look up to because of the incredible impact they are making in the Maritime industry by actively recruiting women for positions that were not accessible to them in the past.  As fellow captains, they are pillars of support, career sounding bars and by introducing more women on the bridge, they are bringing diversity and creativity to our teams. This makes my job more productive and enjoyable.

RSM – What has been the most difficult lesson you’ve had to learn to get to where you are?

KMC – The most eye-opening lesson was to be myself, but in order to be myself I had to discover who I was in the first place. That took time and as we evolve as individuals. I’m finding that I’m learning “me” every day.

Nathaly Alban, Captain, XPloration

Nathaly Alban, Captain, Xploration

Nathaly Alban, Captain, Xploration

RSM – How have women helped you along your career? 

NA – My mother was the first woman who has helped me throughout my career, she is the one who trusted me when I decided to be a merchant sailor and supported me in each of the decisions I made. After her, I have met very few women who belong to my operational area, but the few that I have known have taught me that perseverance is the mother of success.

RSM – Can you share the story of a male champion who supported your ambitions along the way?

NA – My champion is my father, who with his constant unconditional support and great patience taught me that a person’s wealth is in his humility. He could never fulfil all his dreams, but he has something that I have not seen in any other person, an ability to forgive and forget easily. He doesn’t know much about ships, but he listens to me carefully every time I tell him something. He has art in his hands, he is a carpenter by profession, and he likes what he does. That is what he has always instilled in me, to love what you do. He is my champion and the advice he gives me has improved over the years.

RSM – If you could suggest one action that organizations can take to accelerate the representation of women at the top, what would it be?

NA – Allowing them to develop their leadership talents within each workgroup, encouraging them to take the leadership of workgroups and, above all, recognizing their achievements.

Closing the gender gap at sea in Africa

Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, Second Officer, Celebrity Cruises

Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, Second Officer, Celebrity Edge

Nicholine Tifuh Azirh, Second Officer, Celebrity Edge

RSM – As a leader, what are you specifically doing towards closing the gender gap at sea and level the playing field for women?

NTA – I am acting as an ambassador for Celebrity Cruises to Regional Maritime University (RMU), Accra, Ghana. So, I mentor young girls at my university in seafaring careers. I raise awareness of the maritime industry by organizing campaigns to reach out to girls in secondary schools. I’m doing this with the vision of closing the huge gender gap that exists in the seafaring programs at RMU. I help Female Graduates from the RMU to gain employment onboard ships; so far, three girls from RMU have been employed by Celebrity Cruises. All thanks to Celebrity Cruises.

I have also organized various “WoMentoring” programs (women mentoring women) where I have connected about 40 girls in my community with women leaders and seasoned professionals with the experience necessary to influence and inspire the younger generations. I have assisted in organizing various women empowering conferences within my community, where I also distributed 1000 copies of the motivational book, ‘Power of the Mind’ by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, to young girls.

RSM – What has been the most difficult lesson you’ve had to learn to get to where you are?

NTA – I have learnt to be patient, determined and never to give up. Perseverance is the key lesson here because it makes me stay focused on the goal my eyes are fixed upon and not to worry about the temporal struggle and pain that will eventually pass over time.

RSM – If you could suggest one action that women could take to accelerate their career growth, what would it be?

NTA – Women need to work hard, persistently and with self-confidence.

 

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