Accessibility and Inclusion

Cross-cultural workforce relates to more groups in society

Hans Buitelaar
Sunday, 24 March 2024
Great leaders work with a diverse team of people, who all contribute from their own talents and perspectives. Leaders from Lippert and Volvo Penta share a vision on the need for the marine industry to be more inclusive. Trade platforms recognize the need for diversity and try to accelerate the change of the workforce, aiming to broaden the market and attract more groups in society to boating.  

“A coaching style of leadership fosters personal and professional development with the team members. It is not uncommon to hear people say that they want to keep their personal and professional life separated. However, your personal and professional life are always interconnected. We bring our whole selves to any environment. 

In a good working environment colleagues and especially leaders are genuinely interested in the person that you are. That includes showing interest in your personal background. The skills you have as a person manifest both at home and work.”

Rhoda Schnitzer, Leadership & Culture Development Director at Lippert Europe, has developed an encompassing view on leadership and growth. She has the task as well as the vision to stimulate diversity within Lippert. Brands in the boat building industry from Lippert include Lewmar, Taylor Made and SureShade. 

“We want to present an inclusive image of yachting and of working at Lippert,” Schnitzer ensures. “We have women at the helm in advertising pictures, we show women in what are traditionally considered man’s jobs when we are recruiting personnel.”Step by step, Lippert Marine is taking strategic and concrete steps towards a diverse workforce and culture.


“The boating community needs to engage people from more cultural groups in society,” METSTRADE director Niels Klarenbeek is convinced. One of the three leading topics at our trade show and industry platform is addressing, is ‘Accessibility and Inclusiveness’. “We want to stimulate the marine industry in this direction.

Last year, METSTRADE developed its unique strategy to champion diversity in the marine industry. Our commitment to involving individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds, ages, and genders stems from our belief in inclusivity's importance in contemporary society and its potential for substantial business growth in the leisure marine industry.

In the meantime similar initiatives are being conducted by the industry’s most important stakeholders, such as The NMMA Discover Boating campaign. Their 'Discover Boating' campaign stands as a testament to the power of such endeavours, and we wholeheartedly endorse its goals as we chart our course toward a more diverse and inclusive yachting community.

The marine industry needs to attract new groups to be able to sell more boats. If we want to engage young people, people from other cultural backgrounds and more women, we need to have these people in our staff. They understand what is attractive in boating for the population groups they are part of.” Klarenbeek hopes for the self-re-enforcing effect of engaging new groups from society in the yachting community. 

At the marina, neighbouring boat owners will easily talk about their hobby. New ideas about boating will pop up. The traditional boating community will understand and welcome the newcomers. At METSTRADE, the Young Professionals Club and the Women in Marine Network meetings aim to stimulate diversity. 

Klarenbeek: “The Start-Up Pavilion at the METSTRADE show is also an example of our pursuit for diversity. 
We welcome young companies with new ideas that would otherwise maybe not be ready to participate in the show. We need to accelerate these steps towards renewal of boating.”


So what actions can be done to accelerate diversity? Schnitzer shares some of the policies and steps Lippert Marine has taken. “We looked at the job descriptions. The language was adapted to ensure that the descriptions were gender neutral, but more importantly: we introduced wage equality. Women doing the same job as men are now paid the same salary.” The Lippert website presents a number of 12,500 employees, so that may have been a considerable effort. 

“We also defined ways to help team members returning to work from illness. I think a good leader always has to be personally involved in the wellbeing of their team members. Every team member has their unique situation and challenges. Personal involvement is key in helping a leader to leverage the strengths of their team members which in turn leads to a high level of team member engagement.”


“We also revamped the way our company presents at trade shows and consumer shows. One of the ways we have done that is our stands are now designed to be accessible for everyone, including people with disabilities. 

We have moved away from the gender stereotypes of female hostesses at the counter serving drinks with male sales managers talking with the clients. Marine Group Matthew Johnston walks the talk. At shows you will often see that he and other male leaders step behind the bar to make drinks and bites for our relations with whom they are having a conversation.”

Lippert Marine wants to employ people because they are capable, Schnitzer ensures. “Gender, cultural background, age or religion is no consideration in assessing their capabilities. It is also very empowering to recognise talent in people. If they lack the experience or education but show talent, a good leader will equip them. 

We have mentorship and coaching programmes. To name an example: one of our team members, Charlie Thorn, started at our Havant site as an Apprentice Machinist and is today a Design Project Manager, overseeing the New Product Development division of the engineering team. His talent and aptitude were recognised, he took classes to further educate himself and got his Mechanical and Manufacturing Bachelors Degree with Honours. Team members like Charlie are very valuable and we are glad to help him, and others like him, grow.

Role Models

“People from minority cultural backgrounds experience a lot of challenges,” Schnitzer has experienced. She herself came to Europe from India and stayed on because she met her husband Bernd while she was in Germany. “I was told that I would probably get work only at the supermarket counter because a Masters degree with Honours from India would not count here. 

I had to break a lot of glass ceilings. With somebody that they can relate to at a leading position in the company, people start believing that they can do it, too. ”It is the responsibility of the team to welcome a new colleague, ensure they feel integrated and supported, make them feel at home in the team and help them as they acclimate to their tasks.


Initiatives like the Women in Marine Network and other stages to promote diversity, reflect development in the boating sector that has started with a lot of companies. Senior Vice President Brand Communications & Marketing Malin Schwartz of Volvo Penta spoke at the inaugural Women in Marine Industry International gathering at METSTRADE ‘22.

At the company website, she outlines the good that diversity does for the people in the business as well as to the company: “A healthy organization requires different perspectives and resistance is healthy – great things can happen when we push ourselves and our teams beyond our comfort zones. Robust discussions show that people are engaged in the business. I would not want to lead a team where everyone just says yes and does exactly what I say. Development requires being challenged.”

Schwartz expresses a shared vision on the route forward in the boating sector: “It is up to us – we are leaders in the industry so we need to try new ways of attracting more women to the industry and creating interesting career paths for more young people. The main ingredient for all of the companies we represent is to try something new, because that’s the only way we can make progress here.”

The Lippert Marine Group partners with Marine Resources recruitment company, who attract young and diverse professionals to the boating sector.