International Women's Day - Jo Bentley
Highlighting International Women's Day, Ocean Independence chatted with Jo Bentley, chief stewardess on busy charter yacht ANYA, to learn about her career path to date.
The role of a chief stewardess can be demanding and Jo Bentley, on busy charter yacht ANYA, is no stranger to responsibility. Having previously studied and worked for nine years as a marine electrician where she managed luxury sailing yacht builds from start to finish, Jo decided to embark on a career as yacht crew. Originally planning to work as an engineer, her career path took a slightly different route than predicted.
When applying for crewing positions, Jo's fairly unique CV attracted plenty of interest, often as a stewardess with extra engineering skills. Describing what came next, Jo believes that fate dealt her the right hand. "I was actually offered a job as a deck/stewardess with the promise that, when time allowed, I would be in the engine room," she recalls. "After my first trip with the Owner during the Monaco Grand Prix and all the excitement that came from looking after various high-profile guests, I soon realised I much preferred working in the interior. I’ve never ever regretted that choice since."
With plenty of hard work, Jo moved up to the rank of chief stewardess, and describes the tests she has come across. "I think the biggest challenge of being chief stewardess is being able to keep composure all the time. Right now, anxiety and concern on board are bigger issues than ever, so therefore I try to lead in a way that keeps people focused, calm and positive." Detailing the diversity within her role, Jo explains, "For example, there is definitely a lot of responsibility when it comes to organising a charter trip, from special events right through to garment care, and we always try to do something that is above and beyond what is expected of us. Within the interior team, I have truly great support from the other girls and luckily the pressure is somewhat shared". With her solid management skills plus ability to build and motivate a strong team, Jo clearly possesses great leadership qualities to ensure everything falls into place, whilst making it seem effortless.
As a female in the yachting industry, Jo has certainly been determined to succeed on her career path. "Working in a male dominated environment before, I had already dealt with a number of difficulties in the shipyard. Although at the time it was certainly a negative experience, I can only take from it the positive ways it developed my character". She confirms, "To any women looking to start in the industry, especially those looking at traditionally male dominated roles, they need to be aware it’s going to be challenging. But there are no limits to what you can achieve if you are motivated. It is vital not to let negative experiences change your spirit, it will make you stronger". Recognising that there is a need for more support, kindness and encouragement amongst crew members, regardless of gender, she wisely comments "Senior roles have a duty to set the standards and mould the next generation of crew".
With a life at sea come dreams and ambition, of which Jo has plenty. "I wish I had trained up to be a Captain!" she regales. "I encourage any girls that have an interest on deck to do it, and I’d love to see more female Captains out there". In terms of aspirational future plans, this is an area she has clearly thought about, "I would love to work in yacht management, more particularly managing crew, maybe a HR representative for yachts. I definitely think there’s a need for a service that teaches crew the fundamentals of working harmoniously, and just having an outsider to listen and mediate any issues on board".
Unsurprisingly, Jo cites travel as one of her favourite things. "I really love Italy, especially the food. I particularly like Tropea in Calabria. We were lucky enough to have a week there and it’s just incredible unspoiled beauty." No doubt travelling alongside her self-proclaimed 'extended crew family' sharing experiences and a new view every day is a huge draw for Jo, who confirms "It really is great always having someone around to talk to. I thoroughly enjoy the diversity of my job, every day is different".