Diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace have been at the forefront of corporate initiatives lately, as inclusive hiring and employee support are major deciding factors for workers. However, many industries still have room for improvement when it comes to the representation of women and BIPOC at the employee and management levels, including the yachting industry.
The maritime industry has historically shown gender bias when it comes to women wanting to own boats and be captains. Only 8.6% of boat captains are women compared to 87.9% men, according to a recent Zippia survey report. Moreover, women represent only 2% of the 1.2 million seafarers in the world, according to the Institute of Marine Technology.
Brenna Preisser, President of Business Acceleration and Chief Strategy Officer at Brunswick Corporation, the world’s largest recreational boat manufacturer, is working to transform marine culture into a more inclusive and inviting community.
Preisser, who has been with Brunswick for 17 years, has championed innovation within the company by introducing diversity strategies and leading programs and initiatives that engage underrepresented groups to work in the maritime industry or just getting in the water.
“Our diversity efforts really started with our strategy. We’re thinking about how do we create community outreach? And how do we make sure our organization represents our customers and our aspirations?” she shares with CNBC Make It. . “The programs and initiatives that we’ve put in place across the organization have really gained traction and momentum, where we’re really starting to see a lot of success taking root in the organization.”
Brunswick recently launched an initiative called Tide, where they promote workforce engagement, affinity groups, and employee and community awareness. Preisser also commends Brunswick for its improvements in diversity in leadership.
“We’ve made great strides in leadership and diversity within our executive ranks. I’m so proud that for the first time we have a female board member. And so what we’re really starting to see from the top of the organization is a very powerful multiplier effect, all the way down to employees who feel empowered to take the lead and engage in programs.”
Partnering with foundations and organizations is also a strategy to get underrepresented groups on the water. In partnership with the Executive Leadership Council, the company was able to offer scholarships and internships to black students, who they hope will develop a “pipeline” of diverse talent for the maritime industry. Working with marine influencers like Cindy Nguyen, a well-known fisherwoman, and organizations like the Freedom Boat Club, which offers classroom and on-water boat training, have also helped raise community awareness.
“We see a lot more women getting on the water at the Freedom Boat Club. We have around 50,000 members and 35% are women, which is almost double that of the industry. So we have a strong base and we make sure that we’re having an impact on communities and different segments.”
Factors like the diversity at the board level, initiatives for women and people of color, and overall support for their employees resulted in Brunswick being named to List of Forbes America’s Top Large Employers for the second consecutive year, a feat of which Preisser and his team are extremely proud.
“I think it validates, and it feels really good. And it’s just an acknowledgment of the values and the efforts that we have going on. I’m also very proud of the organization and the management team. Each individual matters, from every leader to every employee in the organization welcoming, reinforcing and sustaining our culture.”
Preisser, who had never set foot on a boat before working at Brunswick, hopes to continue providing access and visibility for other women to grow in the industry, saying “she’s a fantastic industry, where we need more women present, influencing the company’s strategy and shaping product.”
The difference between DEI and anti-racism in the workplace, according to the chief diversity officer of a $37 billion company
Biden has pledged to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court — meet 5 who could make the cut
How This 22-Year-Old Founder Turned His Struggling College Career Into A Jobs Platform For HBCU Students
Register now: Be smarter about your money and your career with our weekly newsletter