Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs

Department

Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Jessica Frazier

Abstract

Women have a long history of being actively involved in fisheries worldwide. Despite this fact, the popular image of fishers still assumes a male identity. An understudied yet important factor is women’s involvement in the commercial fishing beyond the family unit. This research was exploratory in scope, taking a thematic analysis approach, which allowed for the identification of patterns and themes within the qualitative data. Through eighteen interviews with women who have experience working in various sectors and segments of the Alaskan commercial fisheries, this thesis identifies: some of the women’s roles; the unique challenges that women face to break into and within the industry initiatives in the face of barriers; some successes and recognition gained by women in the industry; some areas of improvement needed to create safer and inclusive commercial fisheries for everyone; and possible roles for women in the future. Sexism, both internalized and institutionalized, creates barriers for women’s participation. Sexism plays out in various ways, from women not being able to get a job because of sexual discrimination to the potential for sexual harassment once they do. Despite those barriers, some women have come together to create support groups and social media networks that help to offset challenging aspects of choosing fishing as a career. Women pointed out areas of improvement that would be beneficial for both men and women – for instance, the need for training programs to gain competitive skills needed to break into the commercial fishing industry. Interestingly, adjusting commercial fishing practices based on women’s perspectives may create a more inviting and inclusive environment for both men and women.

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