A sailor who has sailed into unchartered waters

An Iranian woman has picked a job which has proved to be a whole new ball game for her: maritime sailing.

When the topic of sea and navigation comes up, the very first thing that crosses your mind is the image of men with muscular builds huffing and puffing when weighing the anchor on a ship. Female naval officers piloting a ship or taking care of things on the deck are the last thing you may think of.

In Iran, female sailors are among those a reporter can create a newsworthy and eye-catching story on. Raheleh Tahmasebi Sarvestani, 31, is one of those outstanding women. Raheleh, who lives in Sarvestan in Fars Province, has chosen software engineering as her major.

Prior to entering the realm of the binary digits [ones and zeros of the binary code] of computer, she tested the waters for a sailing job in 2010 and took maritime courses. Now she is working as second officer on vessels of less than 3,000 gross tonnages.

To mark World Maritime Day (September 29), SMT – an Iranian daily – has conducted an interview with Raheleh Tahmasebi Sarvestani about her career and its bitter and sweet moments. This female sailor says that she loves the sea and has chosen it as her home. She hopes she can one day become a captain. The following is the translation of part of what she said in the interview:


Q: In the eyes of people, maritime careers are more masculine than feminine. How has your family come to terms with your job?

A: The first time I talked about sailing, my family was surprised. They asked me to do a thorough research and test the waters before making up my mind. My father and sister bought into my decision. My dad was one of my supporters and assured me that I can make it even if what I had chosen was masculine in nature. That’s why he showed no opposition to my decision.


Q: How are you treated in your workplace? How do you come to terms with your work conditions?

A: The treatment I am given at work is appropriate. For those involved in maritime activities [in Iran], the presence of a woman sailor is a whole new thing and is – to some extent – odd. One cannot say that for a woman to get involved in maritime activities is as easy as working with other women.

I have overcome the challenges this gig has thrown my way because I love this job. I think you can find no traditionally male jobs in which women cannot prove themselves. I should say that female sailors can work with their male colleagues. […]