- 26th August 2016
Women’s Equality Day – Kate McCue, Captain, Celebrity Summit
As part of Women’s Equality Day today, we at Navis are celebrating Kate McCue, the first female American Captain of a mega ship, the Celebrity Summit.
Kate had dreamed as a child of being a cruise director but her dad encouraged her to “drive the thing” and to apply to California State University Maritime Academy. Kate was one of only eight women in her graduating class.
In an occupation known for being predominantly male, Kate credits her success to working hard, establishing strong relationships and smiling a lot. Contrary to studies that show that smiling a lot can negatively impact your career, Captain Kate says her tendency to smile a lot has helped hers.
Career & leadership development company Red Shoe Movement met with Kate to discuss her success, leadership style and views on gender roles. Read Kate’s interview with Red Shoe Movement below.
How did it feel the first time you sat at the head of the Celebrity Summit as the captain?
When I took over the Celebrity Summit as Master, there is only one word that comes to mind: “EPIC”! It was the culmination of the dream, the hard work, and years of hope coming to fruition and it felt larger than life.
Image courtesy of wsj.com
Do you feel a sense of added responsibility being the first female American captain of a mega ship? Is there something you must prove being a woman in a male dominated occupation?
Many are surprised to hear that I have always worked with women in this industry, whether they were my senior officers, my peers, or my apprentices. I am not alone and only on very rare occasions did I find myself as the solo female presence on the bridge.
One of the secrets to success, regardless of gender, is the ability to do your job: do it well and do even more than what is expected. Then there is no way you can’t succeed.
From the get go, you said you wanted to be a very visible captain. (And judging from your passengers’ comments you are!) How much of a leader’s role is staying in touch with her clients and her team?
Safety is and will always be the number one priority.
The ability to understand what your team, your guests and your ship need or want is imperative.
Being a visible captain means that I am accessible for open communication and constant feedback, which makes a more cohesive environment.
What kind of leader are you?
I strive to be an approachable manager who can reach out to others with warmth and sincerity. Besides being quick to offer a smile, the most valuable contributions, as a manager, are the commitment to teamwork, empathy, and the ability to connect with others.
What traits are clear advantages you bring to a male dominated occupation?
Before becoming a Captain I was sent to Sweden for a Marine Profile, which is a series of psychological tests, specifically for mariners. The results surprised me as I was diagnosed with excessive tendency to smile, even under the pressure of the tests. Many people will tell you that if you smile too much, you won’t be taken seriously. I found the contrary because a genuine smile breaks the ice, makes people feel comfortable, instils trust, and is contagious. I have even read that smiling can be a more effective leadership technique than having great management abilities.
What are some of the aspects of your personality or your style that you’ve had to adjust for this role?
On the way up the ranks, I liked to do it all. However, when I was promoted to Captain, I came to the realization that I couldn’t do it all myself. I needed help. I had to share the responsibility and tasks or I wouldn’t be able to build a team or even sleep. Luckily I have an incredible group of experts in their respective fields that constantly exceed my expectations. It makes my life and my job that much more enjoyable.
As in any profession, in a male dominated occupation you will work hard. Having fun along the way is a must.
It seems that the captain uniform was originally designed for an all-male workforce. Do you think eventually there will be some adjustments to accommodate more women in this male-dominated job? What would be some of your suggestions for a uniform that would be more feminine?
When I started sailing, I had to buy my own uniform pants because the women’s pants never came with the basic necessities: Pockets & belt loops. Try carrying around items like keys, a radio, and flashlight with no belt or pockets!
When I came to Celebrity Cruises, they actually asked for my opinion on several uniform pieces, which I thought was pretty fantastic. We now have more tailored evening jackets and [trousers] with all the bells and whistles!
I have a few more suggestions for uniforms, for example, work shoes. My go-to shoe for evenings is Christian Louboutin black patent leather platforms. You simply can’t go wrong there! In a perfect world, every one of my female crew would have access to that fabulous feminine addition to their uniform!
Another suggestion I would make for any company uniform is regarding neckties. My husband is from Croatia, home of the Cravat. While I must respect that, I have to add that when it comes to a woman in uniform, neckties detract from femininity, so it would be best to make them optional.
You are a role model to women and girls who might not have considered a career like yours. How do you embrace that role?
I am honoured and humbled to be considered a role model by any means. With that comes the obligation to uphold the position.
I do like to use social media, Instagram in particular, as a platform to answer questions or impart advice to inquiring minds. The focus of my Instagram account is to provide a behind the scenes look into the life of a Captain, making it more tangible and hopefully interesting to others attracted to the career or the shipping industry.
Finally, do you keep up with the comments your guests leave on the Celebrity Cruises website? What are some of the most surprising comments you’ve read?
A guest posted on the Celebrity Cruises Facebook page, the following, which really rocked my world: “On our Celebrity Silhouette transatlantic crossing in April, a man sat with us one night for dinner. I apologise for not remembering his name but you, Captain Kate, I am sure will remember him. He lost his wife and has been cruising alone. He could not say enough about you and how kind you were to him. He was on the cruise with you and your parents. He even travels with a 8×10 photo of you and proudly shows it to all of his dinner mates. I just wanted you to know how much your kindness touched this man.”
On a much lighter note, a guest once told me at a cocktail party that I am to Captains what Southwest is to airlines. I hope I can assume that Southwest’s reputation of incredible crew who strive to provide Positively Outrageous Service with a fun-loving attitude was what she meant! Just don’t hold your breath waiting for me to dance in the corridors or sing on the public address system. I save that for special occasions!