Notes for Women in the Alaska Fishing Industry
Both men and women work in Alaska’s fishing industry, but because of the nature of the work and the attitudes of many people in the industry, fishing vessels can be very male-dominated.
It is by no means however, uncommon for women to work on one of these vessels. In fact, there are a growing number of fishing vessels with women skippers and all-female crews. It is also fairly common for women to cook on larger fishing vessels, and women often work as deckhands on tender boats. Onshore processors are becoming even more and more female dominated as well. The word is out on the generous earning potential for onshore processors during a summer up north, and more women are entering the work force in search of experience and good pay.
There is no need to consider it strange, or out of place to be a woman working in Alaska, even if for the most part your coworkers will be men.
If you are a woman, take a few extra precautions before accepting a job on a fishing vessel. That is to say, while most boats and companies are used to employing women now, and many women are in administrative roles on boats, there are a few strategies that will ensure you feel more comfortable as a woman in a male dominated work environment. It is strongly advised that you not accept a job on a fishing vessel unless you are well acquainted with at least one of the crew members, or unless you feel comfortable being the only female onboard. If there are other women working, this is less of an issue but it is nearly impossible to find help when you are out at sea and having someone you can rely on for personal reasons is helpful. Secondly, make sure you know exactly what your duties will entail and how much you will be paid, or you may end up doing a normal share of the fishing plus an abnormal share of the cooking. While this is secondary to other issues related to fishing, some women feel that they end up with the burden of cooking more than their male counterparts. Just be sure to stick up for what your duties are onboard.
If bobbing in rough seas with a bunch of scruffy sailor-types on a small boat doesn’t sound like fun, keep in mind that both onshore and offshore processing jobs, as well as domestic observer and factory trawler positions are available to women. In fact, many processing employers prefer hiring women because of their smaller hands makes processing easier. For more information on these specific positions, take a look at our job description pages for the onshore and offshore processing industries.
Those serious about making a career out of fishing might consider joining an organization for women working in the fishing industry. For more information, contact:
Women’s Fisheries Network
2442 NW Market Street, Suite 243
Seattle, WA 98107