“More parity in managerial positions"

The BOURBON Diversity & Inclusion Committee is dedicated to promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and multiculturalism within the Group. As part of its work, we offer you portraits of female employees, both onshore and offshore, who share their experiences as women working in a traditionally male-dominated sector... Today, Joëlle Laillet, Repair and Maintenance Manager at Hydrauserv.


Can you introduce yourself?

Joëlle Laillet: I'm an engineer by training, and I've been with Bourbon for almost 22 years. I started my career in the newbuilding department at the group's first shipmanager, Bourbon Offshore Surf, before moving to the crane department of the subsea services business, at Bourbon Offshore Gaia, first in purchasing and then in maintenance. Today, I'm in charge of crane maintenance in a dedicated entity, Hydrauserv. I manage a team of 5 mobile technicians.

How would you describe your career as a woman at BOURBON?

J. L.: When I started out at BO Surf, I found myself immersed in an all-male, all-sea environment; I had little experience or knowledge of the maritime world. It was a challenge, because I had to learn a new trade and integrate into an unfamiliar environment.

When I joined BO Gaia at its inception, I found myself back in an engineering environment more in line with my training, but I had to learn a new trade all over again. This time, it wasn't about ships but cranes. I work in a predominantly male environment, which means I have to deal with extremely technical subjects all the time. It's not always easy to be accepted, there can sometimes be a certain condescension, but I also learned a lot from my colleagues who were passionate about their job, and who wanted to pass on that passion.

This career has enriched me with a wide range of skills, not just technical ones, and I've also made some wonderful encounters with people from all walks of life and of all nationalities.

What are the main challenges you face as a woman in our industry?

J. L.: I've always been very well received by my teams, both ashore and on board vessels, but being a woman means that you have to prove yourself even more if you want to be taken seriously. When you're working in a predominantly male environment, and managing teams who are used to dealing exclusively with men, you have to manage to gain acceptance and find your place, even if they're open-minded. A woman's management style can be different: less authoritarian, more open and willing to listen. This can also destabilize teams accustomed to male management.

If you had the chance, what would you change in your day-to-day work?

J. L.: Overall, there's nothing I'd like to change at my level, but I'd like to see more women in management positions. Maybe then women would feel less inhibited, less doubtful about whether they belong in such positions. They'd feel less like a glass ceiling is holding them back. Also, their careers shouldn't suffer because they're on maternity leave, have children, work part-time, and so on. We still hear too many guilt-tripping remarks on this subject.

How do you see the role of women at BOURBON?

J. L.: I have the impression that they are mainly present in support functions: human resources, communications and sales. It's a pity that there aren't more of them in technical and operational positions. Unfortunately, I also have the impression that there are fewer and fewer women engineers and seafarers, and that young girls are choosing these fields less and less, which makes it difficult to recruit for more operational positions.

Would you recommend a career in the maritime industry to young women? If so, what advice would you give them?

J. L.: Yes, because there's no profession that's inaccessible to women. Even if we sometimes have to deal with biased remarks, the evolution of our environment is perceptible. Today, I sense a positive evolution in attitudes. On the family front, young men are taking paternity leave, and are more willing to share the workload. However, I'm afraid it's still difficult for a woman seafarer to combine her personal and family life with her professional life, due to the specific constraints of support vessels in our industry.