Meet Margaret Szopinski, a Mechanical Assistant and SIU member for almost sixteen years. With a drive to constantly improve her skills and develop new ones, Margaret isn’t stopping anytime soon. Margaret became a seafarer because someone told her she couldn’t do it – and she needed to prove them wrong. With fierce workmanship and dedication to her job, Margaret shows what it means to be a female seafarer in 2018.
“I’m really stubborn. My boyfriend at the time said I couldn’t do it, so I did it, and I really liked it so I kept going.” Margaret began her career with the SIU in 2002, and has held various positions during her sixteen-year tenure. She started out on the deck then moved on to become an AB. From there she trained to work in the engine room where she now works. Margaret is constantly working to upgrade her skills, most recently finishing a tanker training course at Piney Point, so she can take on new opportunities aboard these vessels.
A strong mother of four and grandmother of two, Margaret has always pursued the things she enjoys, no matter what anyone else says. “I came here [to Canada] from Poland in the 90’s and did a lot of different things. I was a stay at home mom, then a PSW and now I do this.” When she’s working, Margaret is very focused on her work, but she says one of the best things about the job is the long periods of time off. During breaks, she gets to spend time with family and work on her hobby. “When I’m not working I like to work on my houses. Tiling, making cabinets- everything about houses. I’ve built three kitchens from the ground up.”
When asked what it means to be a strong woman in an industry dominated by men, Margaret said she believes we need to get away from talking about jobs as “men’s” or “women’s” jobs, they’re just jobs. “People should do the jobs they like. I prefer working with my hands. I like what I like and I should be able to do it.” To any young women wanting to pursue a career in seafaring, Margaret says they should take a leap and go for it.
Margaret does acknowledge however, that there are some barriers still facing women in this line of work. She notes that there are few women working in the engine rooms with her, but hopes that could change. “The industry is really getting better. Women can take the same courses as men, and involvement on the boats is the same. I’ve never had guys not be ok with me working- because I’m a hardworking woman.” Margaret believes the biggest thing stopping more women from becoming seafarers is family life. “Sometimes there are barriers for women with families – being away for a long period of time, but other women do it and they do it for their family because the money is good.”
March is women’s history month in Canada and around the world. While our industry has traditionally been dominated by men, we’re seeing more and more women join us. Like all other seafarers, Margaret takes pride in working hard and leaving her post every day knowing she put her all into her job. She has broken barriers and defied those who challenge her abilities to thrive as a seafarer. Thank you, Margaret, for being a great example for the next generation of female seafarers.