2019 Honoree

Captain Kate McCue

First Female US Cruise Liner Captain, CelebrityCruises

“I’m passionate about gender equality because I have been given the responsibility and platform to represent women in one of the oldest-existing occupations, sailing the world’s oceans. By being a ‘first,’ it is an honor to pave the way for others everyday in every way.”

In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?

A power woman is someone who truly knows herself. She understands her strengths and her weaknesses and can use them accordingly to adapt to her surroundings and situations for optimum results.

With all the different issues one could focus on, how do you balance your efforts in pursuit of gender equality? Is it a global approach or a specific issue that you are passionate about?

To me, the pursuit of gender equality is an unwritten element of my job description, and I find it an easy balance with my onboard responsibilities and routine. My routine keeps me accessible and in the public eye to field questions or smash stereotypes on a daily basis regarding women at sea and in my position. I’m passionate about gender equality because I have been given the responsibility and platform to represent women in one of the oldest existing occupations, sailing the world’s oceans. By being a “first,” it is an honor to pave the way for others everyday in every way.

Do you believe that there is any gender specific role for women to play in the Climate Change debate?

No. Climate change affects everyone, regardless of gender. Bringing gender into the debate just complicates the issue. I experience it every day when at sea and I make sure to do my part in socializing what we can each do.

Do you believe industry and commerce (and government) should factor into a ten year plan the costs involved in mitigation the effects of Climate Change? (According to an Oxford University supported survey, the total global economic cost would be €200-350 billion per year by 2030. This is less than one percent of the forecasted global GDP in 2030).

I don’t have an informed opinion on this one. From a world perspective, I just wish everyone would get onboard that climate change IS real.

If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” I truly am living my dream job and wouldn’t trade it for any job in the world.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

That feels quite grandiose as there are so many women who have done what they do out of passion, not necessarily to be “the first.” Not to mention, nobody gets there alone. The first American woman in space, Sally Ride, maybe? I am a fan of anyone who sets goals, works hard, and doesn’t give up until they achieve their dream.

Why or why not? In what way do you work for women’s power and equality? What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take (e.g. affirmative action)?

The number one action is to be the best role model I can be as the first female American Captain of a cruise ship, and also to help other women along the way. I am constantly asked by women in maritime questions that they feel awkward asking others. Additionally, I hope that, one day, gender won’t even be part of the conversation or how we are defined. That’s when I will know we have done our job in society as being open, accepting, and without labels.

Can you tell us a short story in which you encountered a block in the workplace and what you did about it?

I love spending time with our guests, and, many times, when they find out I am the Captain I get jokes about being a woman driver, or asking for directions, or they are surprised to hear about the nineteen years of training that it took me to be the master of the vessel. I make a point to smile and share information that will open how they think about female captains, and professional women in general. With 2,000+ guests onboard each week, that is a lot of minds to shift over time. I take on this challenge with every sailing.

Do you think that asking previous salary requirements in job interviews contributes to the pay gap between women and men? NY State recently outlawed this practice. Should we push for a nationwide ban?

I really cannot speak to this as maritime industry salaries are determined by rank, experience, and ship size.

Have you seen changes in the political landscape for women over the past few years? If so, what are they?

I’ve seen changes in the political landscape for women on a global scale. I travel the world as my day-job and see women accomplishing more, striving for more, being more vocal and not holding back simply because of their gender. This goes for girls/women young and old.

Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?

When I was about twelve-years-old and my parents took me on a cruise. At the end of the week, I told my parents that when I grew up, I wanted to be a cruise director. I will always remember what my dad said to me. He said that I could be anything I wanted to be, including driving the thing. It influenced me more than he will ever know. And, it led to another defining moment, which was sharing the news of being appointed Captain with him on Father’s Day. My parents have always been my biggest cheerleaders.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I would say the best piece of advice was for me to be myself. I’ve applied this to all areas of my life and pass this along to every young person I meet. Don’t change for anyone, follow your passion, and don’t sacrifice who you are along the way.

There are many studies that support the idea that a female presence in the boardroom increases the bottom line and leads to healthier work environments. What can we do to continue to support and enhance the growth and presence of women in high profile positions?

My version of the “board room” is on the bridge of the ship. I have heard feedback from our ship’s crew at all levels that having a female captain has shifted the way they think about the bridge of the ship. Some of the men that I work with have actually said that it’s made them better people, and they were pretty great to start with. One of my goals is to normalize women in maritime so that more women are aware that this is an incredible field with huge opportunities and perks. In what other industry do you get to travel the world, work with an incredible team, and have the honor to open the world for thousands of guests each year? I have the best job ever.

Is “Education, education and education” one of the top three responsibilities of a civilized society? If so, why is it prohibitively expensive? If not, why not?

Education is everything. To me, this is formal and informal education. For instance, travel is one of the biggest teachers we have in our society. It changes us and makes us
better people. You learn even without realizing you’re learning. And, when you combine that with a “formal” education, it’s a great recipe for a more tolerant, compassionate, and collaborative society. Is it a responsibility? I do think some level of education is a good investment in the future and should be accessible to everyone. Top 3? Yes!

What is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?

Non-fiction. The most valuable digital book on the ship is the logbook. Safety is the most important priority onboard the ship. Communication between crew members and departments is imperative to our guest’s experience. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t like some fun fiction every once in a while!

What do you most value in your friends?

Fun and honesty.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

I would say that humility is a bit overrated. I am always humble, but I also take great pride in my accomplishments and in the accomplishments of our team. Everyone needs to know how valuable they are…each person is so unique and brings something special to the world.

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