Captain Sandy from ‘Below Deck Med’ Inspires Women in a Male-Dominated Industry

Bravo producers knew what they were doing when they hired Captain Sandy Yawn to take the helm on Below Deck Mediterranean.

Yawn’s personable approach to crew management not only endears her to viewers but is sparking inspiration in women and girls to take on leadership positions.

Captain Sandy Yawn |Photo by Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Yachting is a heavily male-dominated industry, especially when it comes to yacht captains. In fact, women were historically considered to be bad luck to have on ships because they distracted the crew. But Yawn’s mainstream presence is helping to change the notion that yachting is a “boys only” club.

Yawn regularly receives messages from viewers

Yawn does an incredible job of addressing as many viewer comments and questions on social media. In addition to answering questions about the show and her role, she often receives comments about how she is inspiring women and girls to realize their dreams.

A viewer recently tweeted, “As a father of 2 girls, It’s inspiring to see a woman in a male dominated field as well as member of LGBT community as Captain on a mega yacht being televised around the world handle herself with such authority & class. Good for you @CaptSandyYawn.” Yawn recently went public about being in love with gospel singer Leah Shafer.

Yawn was touched by the viewer’s message. “Love hearing the positive impact of #BelowDeckMed! That you took the time to tweet has made my day Tim! Thanks!” She’s also received a slew of messages congratulating her for finding love and being very open about her sexuality too.

She leads with love

Yawn recently talked to Newsweek about her leadership style and why it works so well. “I think when the crew sees that I really care about them, they start to care,” she said. “And that’s how I lead. I care about them so they care about me. It’s like a natural human thing. My motive isn’t because I want them to care about me, my motive is that I actually care.”

She also revealed how she inspires her crew to reach their potential. “If you want your crew—I refer to crew, but it could be your staff—to perform for you, then do what you ask them to do,” she shared. “Show them that you’re not above doing that work. Take time. Talk with them. It isn’t like you have to hold their hand through it. Obviously, you have a job to do.”

Joao Franco, Captain Sandy Yawn |Photo by Greg Endries/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

While she’s addressed Chef Mila Kolomeitseva’s homophobic comments in the past, Yawn shared why she isn’t personally offended. “Now, if they’re insulting me, that’s a different story. If they’re assaulting me and attacking me then I will address that in a very calm manner,” she said. “I’m a diffuser, I’m not an infuser. I believe that everyone gets to have their opinions. She’s from a different country. It doesn’t reflect on me. And if I find myself getting emotional over it, then I need to take a look at me.”

More like Yawn should be shown in the mainstream

Featuring an inspirational yacht captain like Yawn is one positive step toward motivating more women to move into leadership roles. However, women have to continue to fight for their role as a leader on yachts. The obstacles deckhand Rhylee Gerber faced on Below Deck are very real in the industry and male-dominated crews may often not view women on deck as being equal.

Why? YPI Crew asserts that old fashioned stigmas persist. “The reality remains that as a woman working in yachting, you will most likely be at the bottom of any list of possible candidates when applying for these roles, regardless of experience or qualifications.”

Captain Sandy Yawn, Hannah Ferrier, Aesha Scott |Photo by Greg Endries/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

But women are often better managers than men. A 2017 BI Norwegian Business School study found women managers outperformed men in four out of five categories they assessed, YPI reports. Female leadership gaps are found in more than just yachting. Across the board, women in management positions earn less money and don’t reach the same esteem and leadership pinnacle as their male counterparts.

But Yawn is a great example of how the tides are changing. Her bosun João Franco recently tweeted about how grateful he is to have Yawn as his leader. “There are very few captains who show compassion. Having @CaptSandyYawn ‘s support makes me respect her even more and makes me want to prove to her that she made the right choice in bringing me back.”