Whitney Cruse, president of Women in Maritime Operations’ West Kentucky chapter, addresses the Port of Paducah Propeller Club on March 13 at Walker Hall in Paducah, Ky. (Photo by Shelley Byrne)

Paducah Propeller Club Hears WIMOs Presentation

Since its foundation in 2017 as an organization designed to educate, engage and elevate women working in maritime fields, Women In Maritime Operations (WIMOs) has grown to more than 1,000 members representing more than 250 companies.

Whitney Cruse, president of the WIMOS West Kentucky chapter, headquartered in Paducah, Ky., gave a presentation on the organization during the March 13 meeting of the Port of Paducah Propeller Club.

Cruse spoke about WIMOs’ accomplishments, both at the national and local levels.

Nationally, WIMOs has 12 chapters and seed chapters and seven areas of interest, and hosted 83 member events in 2023. It now has members in the United States, Canada and Nigeria.

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The western Kentucky chapter, founded two years later, has more than 150 members representing 24 companies. It hosts monthly events, with 90 percent focusing on educating or elevating its members and the remaining 10 percent focusing on engaging them.

“I think because of those three things, you’re really seeing women taking their career to the next level,” she said.

Cruse pointed out that traditionally women have been more involved in the river industry through administrative roles, meaning they have not had as many opportunities to see work going on outside of an office setting. That is why WIMOs has offered opportunities to members to see from other perspectives. WIMOS West Kentucky members have visited a farm, grain elevator and deckhand training facility, toured locks and dams, a propeller repair shop, boat simulator and dredging operation and watched rigging be tested.

“Once we learn more, we do better at our jobs,” she said. “We can ask more questions.”

Women may not be as likely to ask questions in front of male team members, either because they feel intimidated or don’t know what questions to ask, Cruse said.

“Sometimes they are a little more apt to ask questions when there are only females in the room,” she said.

Women also want opportunities to learn from each other, she said. WIMOS West Kentucky members have prepared meals together for those in need, collected pantry items, packed boxes for Seamen’s Church Institute’s Christmas on the River ministry, collected items for a Paducah domestic violence shelter and hosted appreciation tents at golf tournaments in Paducah and Nashville, Tenn.

Finally, Cruse said, WIMOs wants to help women achieve goals outside of their immediate job descriptions. Events designed to help women elevate themselves have included an Investing 101 course with Paducah Bank, a leadership course with Alysan Ban Hooser, making personal vision boards with B Dynamic and the EmpowerHER course from the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce.

Cruse said the company she works for, Marquette Transportation, has noticed women who are a part of WIMOs have increased their knowledge as well as their confidence level.

“We’re seeing that, and I hope other companies are as well,” she said.

WIMOs is also poised to continue to grow its services, actively working with maritime academies and universities and colleges that have maritime departments or offer degrees in a maritime-related program. Additionally, she said, the WIMOs mentorship program is pairing mentors and protégés to help pass on knowledge.

Such programs are not only beneficial to women, Cruse said, but also will help the industry as a whole, whether that is through increasing the pool from which the industry recruits or helping retain and promote employees as they continue to increase their job skills.

Caption for photo: Whitney Cruse, president of Women in Maritime Operations’ West Kentucky chapter, addresses the Port of Paducah Propeller Club on March 13 at Walker Hall in Paducah, Ky. (Photo by Shelley Byrne)