The 2019 Women Offshore UNITE Conference brought together 175 participants from 20 different countries. Below, learn all about this career-propelling event!

July 12-13, 2019, Women Offshore hosted its 2nd annual UNITE conference at Rice University in Houston, Texas. One hundred seventy-five professionals, both female and male, met in person to network and share experiences. The conference was made possible by its sponsors: Transocean, EnscoRowan (now Valaris), Hornblower, Foss, Trackline, Interlake Steamship Company, and Veritas Total Solutions. Special thanks to Easy As Pie Design who was the social media sponsor, sharing updates online throughout the conference.

Kicking off the event, Ally Cedeno, the founder of Women Offshore, delivered a warm welcome to the attendees, speakers, and sponsors, remarking on how the attendance numbers exceeded everyone’s expectations. Of the 175 attendees who checked in, there were 20 different countries represented: Angola, Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, China, Brazil, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Oman, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobego, Turkey, the UK, and the United States.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) sponsored 8 female seafarers from around the world to attend. Transocean, MM&P, and the Captain Richard Phillips Lane Kirkland Maritime Trust sponsored the registration fees for current midshipmen and recent maritime academy graduates. Thank you to IMO, Transocean, MM&P, and Captain Richard Phillips Lane Kirkland Maritime Trust for their generous donations.

Click and scroll through the photos!

Day 1: A Warm Welcome & Powerful Keynote!

Following Ally’s welcoming remarks, Dr Shashi Kumar, the National Coordinator Maritime Education and Training at the U.S. Maritime Administration, spoke about MARAD’s alignment and commitment in pursuing gender equality in the maritime industry. Next, he introduced the morning keynote, Susan Dio, Chairman and President of BP America.

Susan delivered an inspiring speech, discussing the importance of diversity in the workplace and how that translates into a more collaborative work environment, diversity of thought and ultimately better shareholder value. She mentioned that there are seasons of life and a career, touching on her experience navigating those as both a mom and executive.

Leveraging Leadership Skills for Success

Following Susan, breakout sessions filled up the day. Attendees heard from women who are firsts in their industries on the water to hear how they leveraged leadership skills for success, such as Vicki Corso, a subsea expert known as “the riser dude.”


Vicki Corso, Subsea Project Engineer, Chevron
Jais Curry, Operations Engineer, EnscoRowan (now Valaris)
Captain Patricia Malagrino, Chief Officer, EnscoRowan (now Valaris)
Captain Jennifer Norwood, Assistant Professor, Maine Maritime Academy

Moderator: Janelle Daniel, Vice President, Human Resources, Community Relations, & Sustainability, Transocean

Maintaining Work-Life Balance On & Off Hitch

A panel about work-life balance discussed the challenges and rewards of having such an unorthodox work schedule. Panelists shared if they get bored at home with 6 months off a year, and if they do, how they fill up that off-time. Fionna Boyle and Serena Webber-Bey even shared how they use various apps to stay connected to others and engage in hobbies while at sea.


Fionna Boyle, Second Officer, OSG
Coronado Hickman, Second Officer, Crowley
Laura McFalls, Shell RTOC Well Monitoring Specialist, Cenergy International Services
Serena Webber-Bey, Chief Engineer, Matson

Moderator: Karoline Bowen-Jones, Leadership Development Specialist, EnscoRowan (now Valaris)

Working Offshore as a Mom

A ground-breaking panel featured mothers who work offshore and how they continued to go to sea after maternity leave. The panelists spoke of the support they received from their spouses, companies, friends and families, as well as the reactions to their decision.


Geisa Helena A da Silva, Dynamic Positioning Operator, Dof Subsea/Norskan Offshore
Captain Alana Anderson, Chief Officer, Transocean
Lt Commander Karen Kutkiewicz, Operations Officer, U.S. Coast Guard
Carrie Norton, Dynamic Positioning Operator, EnscoRowan (now Valaris)

Moderator: Lisa Mullins, Director, Human Resources, Transocean

Exploration of Diversity & Inclusion

The afternoon panels included Exploring Gender Diversity and Inclusion, where the panelists explored the new frontier of women expanding boundaries in a “man’s world,” and discussed how this movement may be perceived by the existing workforce. Women bring value and it is seen by many. Furthermore, Tara Anderson of API stressed the importance of recognizing that the energy industry brings a lot of benefits that women are looking for, encouraging everyone to share their industry experiences to recruit more talent.


Tara Anderson, Director, External Mobilization, API
Captain Ayse Asli Basak, Port Captain, Mid-Ship Group
Karoline Bowen-Jones, Leadership Development Specialist, EnscoRowan (now Valaris)
Patti Tutalo, USCG Retired

Moderator: Jessica Aberle, EHS Supervisor, Helix

Men Advocating for Change

To normalize the conversation on gender issues with open and candid dialogue, 4 male panelists spoke about men’s roles in reducing the gender gap on the water. They answered questions such as, “What organizational or cultural conditions help to encourage men to become allies, and what elements prevent them from stepping forward?” It was an engaging dialogue that many attendees have requested more of for next year’s conference.


David Boudreaux, Mooring Master, AET
Mike Lawson, Vice President, HSE Performance, EnscoRowan (now Valaris)
Captain Graham Park, Operations Manager, Transocean
John Simon, Board Director, Pacific Drilling

Moderator: Vishruti Jakhar, Rice University MBA 2019 Graduate

Personal Preventative Maintenance Workshop

Lead by Jais Curry, of Jais Curry Consulting, a Personal Preventative Maintenance Workshop was an interactive discussion on the importance of self-care at sea. Jais shared how and why it is important to make time for yourself at sea, providing easy strategies for self-care, no matter what kind of vessel someone works on.

Work Opportunities Off & On Shore

The end of the first day concluded with a happy hour and career fair. Companies showcased work opportunities both on the water and onshore. These companies included Trackline Search Partners, McAllisterMM&PTOTEShellOSGFossHornblower Cruises & EventsVeritas Total SolutionsTransoceanEnscoRowan (now Valaris), Seadrill, San Francisco Bar Pilots, Rice Business, and Interlake Steamship Company.

Day 2: Kicked off with Empowering Keynotes

The second day started with two opening empowering keynote speakers, Janelle Daniel, vice president at Transocean, and Delfina Govia, partner at Veritas Total Solutions, who both emphasized the importance of “top down” support for diversifying the talent pool within an organization. The value women bring in empathy, emotional intelligence, communication, collaboration, and active listening all bring diverse perspectives to operations. They encouraged everyone to take a seat at the table as we are welcome and needed.

Following Delfina, Serena Webber-Bey gave a very honest and engaging speech that had everyone giggling throughout. Her dreams of becoming a fashion designer took an unexpected turn when a teacher nudged her to look into engineering as she kept scoring so highly in her STEM classes.  Now as a shipboard chief engineer, she is an inspiration to other young women to explore engineering careers, recruiting a few young ladies to follow in her footsteps in marine engineering.

Career Transitions from Offshore to Onshore

The morning’s events also included more breakout sessions. A panel entitled, “Career Transitions from Offshore to Onshore,” explored various career paths from ship to shore. The resounding theme was that these women all advocated for themselves, spoke up about their needs and positioned themselves financially and geographically to be ready to make the leap when the opportunities opened up.


Emily Black, Crewing Manager, TOTE Services
Katherine Papageorge, Facilities Engineer, Chevron
Karen Taylor, International Marine Scheduler, Chevron Lubricants / Base Oils Logistics
Marjorie Zoretic, General Manager, Atlantic, Foss Maritime

Moderator: Sheila LaFleur, Owner & Maritime Recruiter, Trackline Search Partners

Pilots from Around the World

A major hit that morning was the panel entitled, “Pilots from Around the World.” Pilots from Kenya, India, Sweden, Australia and the United States took the stage. As expert navigators who overcame challenges in their home countries, they shared their experiences. The attendees gained an understanding of what pilotage looks like worldwide.


Captain Josephine Clark, Port Authority of New South Wales, Australia
Liz Marami, Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya
Reshma Nilofer, Calcutta Hugli Pilots Guild, India
Captain Karen Nola, Sandy Hook Pilots, USA
Captain Hanna Odengrund, Eastcoast Pilots, Swedish Maritime Administration, Sweden

Moderator: Captain Bob Carr, San Francisco Bar Pilots, USA

Tough Conversations Workshop

There was also an interactive workshop focusing on methods and strategies to navigate challenging conversations. Lead by Erica D’Eramo of Two Piers Consulting, attendees ran through practical scenarios with a big dose of humor to tackle this tricky topic. Participants walked away with how to skillfully manage difficult interactions.

Mentoring Best Practices to Empower Our Community

After lunch, a panel that focused on the importance of mentoring, called “Mentoring Best Practices to Empower Our Community,” was hosted by Ally Cedeno. This was an inspirational discussion on the importance of being a mentor to women who are coming up in the industry, and how mentoring transforms the mentor in addition to the mentee.  Women Offshore offers a mentoring program to women who are seeking guidance in the industry. Find out more about the Women Offshore Mentorship by clicking here.


Captain Christine Klimkowski, Instructor, Pacific Maritime Institute
Captain Lindsay Price, Tugboat Captain, G&H Towing
Beth Smith, Director, Marine Assurance, Foss Maritime

Moderator: Ally Cedeno, Founder, Women Offshore; Operations Intern, Transocean

Q&A with Women Offshore

The final panel was with the Women Offshore board of directors who announced that Women Offshore will now become a non-profit organization! Sustaining Women Offshore for future generations is a top priority to ensure the maritime and offshore energy industries are diverse landscapes of seafarers.

Wave Maker Dinner

The closing remarks were by Captain Elizabeth Simenstad, founder of Sea Sisters, who discussed her journey from a ship’s agent to a Tug Boat Captain, and how she continues to relentlessly pursue her dreams of becoming a ship pilot.

The last speaker was Parker Harrison, who gave us a delightful insight into her experience as a new attorney at a maritime law firm and member of the Women In Shipping and Transportation (WISTA) over 15 years ago. She is now the President of WISTA USA and Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Crowley Maritime. She truly understands the importance of women supporting women as it has been a critical key to her success and growth into an industry leader.

At the closing dinner, Ally presented the first Wave Maker Awards to acknowledge women who pursue their career dreams, while supporting others in the industry. Captain Sherri Hickman, Delfina Govia, Janelle Daniel, and Jaquelyn Burton received the awards and were each recognized for their incredible contributions to the industry personally and professionally. There were laughs, applause, and tears. It was incredibly moving way to close out the conference.

After the awards there was celebration, picture taking, sea story sharing, and connecting on social media, as many friendships formed. Before the night was over, plans for the 3rd annual UNITE Conference were already being discussed! It was clear that the Women Offshore ship is underway, gaining speed, and preparing to create an even bigger wake shortly.

See You Next Year!

Here at Women Offshore, we look forward to seeing you at next year’s UNITE. Stay tuned to the site for details in the months to come!


Women Offshore

About The Author: Women Offshore

The Women Offshore Foundation is an online organization and resource center for a diverse workforce on the water. Its mission is to propel women into meaningful careers through access to a worldwide community and professional development resources, while raising awareness amongst industry leaders and decision makers about issues affecting women on the water. Contact Women Offshore today: [email protected].

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