Women in Design – Part 2

Historically, vessels were captained and crewed by men, and the hangover from the male-oriented days of yesteryear stretches into the present. Times are rapidly changing, however. In the next instalment of our Women in Yachting series, we speak to female yacht designers Laura Pomponi, Adriana Monk, Sabrina Monteleone-Øeino and Daniela Zulli. They shed light on what makes them tick as designers, and how being underrepresented in the sector has affected their careers.

Women in Yachting – Last week, four esteemed women in the world of yacht design spoke to us about how their love of the industry led them to found bespoke firms. This week, they shed light on how they have experienced the journey to the top of an arguably male-dominated industry.

Laura Pomponi is able to look back over her illustrious career and say with a considerable degree of certainty that “being a female in yachting means that you have to try that much harder.” For her, it is not a question of whether or not the industry is male-dominated, but of how best to tackle this truism. She attributes her success to her experience in other male-dominated remits, as well as a large dose of perseverance: “There is a specific male attitude which is prevalent,” Laura tells us, “it was not easy to find my way, but with competence and courage, I am getting there.”

The only female product designer to graduate in her year, Adriana is all too aware of the skewed representation of women in the sector. For her, being a woman in design is about bringing something to the table that men do not: “I am proud to bring a female perspective to a male dominated domain,” she says. Although women may excel at different things, Adriana is keen to convey the validity of both contributions: “Gender does not make a difference in terms of design talent.The ultimate nod of recognition is when the owner is thrilled by the outcome.”

Adriana is also eager not to drive a wedge into the industry, claiming that “the best results are achieved when the whole team is empowered.” Camaraderie is conducive to achieving the overarching aim of “adding more beauty, harmony and happiness to those who own and work on yachts”, she argues. For Adriana, there is little place for gender-based scrutiny in an industry that requires such a measure of collaboration.

This is a sentiment echoed by Sabrina, who claims some advantage in being a woman in superyacht design, arguing that “men rely on our feminine touch to make their yachts as harmonious and comfortable as possible.” The idea that women have something new and distinct to offer yacht interiors and exteriors is clearly a prevailing one, compounded by Sabrina’s assertion that “it is also easier for us to understand women’s habits on board and how to furnish accordingly!”

When asked about the male-dominated nature of yacht design, Daniela’s response is refreshingly matter-of-fact: “Which industry is not? I do not focus on this fact, I just get on with my work.” Echoing Adriana’s sentiments about the collaborative nature of the design industry, Daniela espouses an egalitarian worldview that rejects divisive discourse, saying “Whether my colleagues are male or female doesn’t matter, as most of them are incredibly talented and fun to work with.”

Although she concedes that “at times it can be challenging”, Daniela feels that she is suitably thick-skinned to to withstand potentially disadvantageous workplace conditions, having started her career in investment banking.

The determination of these women is inspiring. None of them are contesting the male-orientation of their chosen work, and yet none bemoan this state of affairs. Instead, Adriana, Sabrina, Daniela and Laura seem to agree on the point that perseverance will eventually see time-honed biases dissipate completely. Next week, in our final installment of Women in Yachting, we speak to female yacht builders about their industry experiences.