‘Below Deck’ Addresses Gender Bias in the Industry

Below Deck has shined a light on gender bias and sexism in the yachting industry. The Bravo show, which features the crew and guests traveling aboard a luxury yacht, dives into gender roles and stereotypes.

Typically a male-led industry, the series features a strong female captain in the spin-off Below Deck Mediterranean. The series also often includes a woman on deck, plus last year included a male second stew. Although Below Deck attempts to break gender stereotypes, yachting is still a man’s world.

Captain Sandy Yawn
Captain Sandy Yawn | Greg Endries/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Captain Sandy Yawn from Below Deck Med told Marine Max that the industry needs more women on deck. “There aren’t a lot of women on deck,” she said. “I love the TV show because they’re putting a lot of women on deck in front of millions of viewers. My passion is grabbing these young women and saying, ‘You would make an amazing chef,’ or ‘You would make an amazing captain.’ In my industry, deficit of crew is a big issue. That’s where my passion is. We want more women boaters, but we also want more women captains.”

Some men think women bring more drama

This season of Below Deck, the male-dominated deck team and male chef appear to be stirring the pot far more than the women. It started with chef Kevin Dobson’s insistence that chief stew Kate Chastain didn’t do her job. But then when deckhand Rhylee Gerber joined the deck team, bosun Ashton Pienaar didn’t exactly provide her with a warm welcome. Gerber told Showbiz Cheat Sheet Pienaar held a grudge against her from last season. As a result, he turned the men against her almost immediately.

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She's the captain n̶o̶w̶ always. #BelowDeckMed

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However, a viewer suggested that the show should abandon hiring women and instead go with an all-male team instead. “How about an all Male crew? I gave up hiring women. Put two of them together you get drama. I stopped hiring women years ago and all is great, no drama,” he tweeted to Captain Lee Rosbach, who is at the helm this season.

Gender bias continues to be a problem

However, Yawn picked up the remark and responded. “And who says #genderbias isn’t real?!? #TheFutureisFemale#womenempowerment.” This led to others wonder why someone would make the comment. One person returned with the suggestion that the show should hire all women instead. “Or how about an all female crew? I watch the show all the time and I’ve seen the female deckhands do just as much as the men smh.”

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Look who's on deck! Welcome aboard Valor, Rhylee!

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But Yawn’s point was that a captain should hire the right person for the job and not base hiring decisions on gender. “If they are the best for the job, then yes, bring it on!” she responded. Also, a 2017 BI Norwegian Business School study found female leaders outperformed men in four out of five categories they assessed, YPI reports. Female leadership gaps are found in more than just yachting. But unfortunately, women in management positions earn less money. Plus they don’t reach the same esteem and leadership pinnacle as their male counterparts.

Gerber told Showbiz Cheat Sheet in February that even though she was just as strong as the men on deck, they hardly ever utilized her talents. “My immediate thoughts during filming wasn’t that they are treating me differently because I’m a woman,” she said. “But afterward I did notice that after Tyler came on, maybe there was something to this. I have muscles, I’m strong. I mean, I lift bigger fish than these jackasses and they’re not really utilizing me.”