Photo/Courtesy of Tamara Lowe
Caribbean women are born leaders. Those were the only words in my mind when I greeted Tamara Lowe via Zoom. The confidence that she exuded made it evident that she was a woman in charge, a woman in a leadership position. But not just any leadership position.
Tamara Lowe is currently the Country Manager of Tropical Shipping and the first woman to hold this position in Dominica. That's a big deal, primarily since women represent only 1.2% of the global seafarer workforce, according to a 2021 BIMCO/ICS Seafarer Workforce Report.
As Country Manager, she is charged with all operations for Tropical Shipping in Dominica. Tropical Shipping is a U.S. based shipping company that delivers complete cargo transportation services to The Bahamas and The Caribbean.
Working in the Male-Dominated Maritime Industry
Tamara started her career in the maritime industry as a Sales Representative at Tropical Shipping. She had no knowledge of the maritime industry or experience in sales. In fact, she had just completed her degree in Economics at the University of Holguin in Cuba. Fluent in Spanish, she returned to Dominica intending to land a job in foreign affairs.
However, acquiring that dream job fresh out of university is never an easy feat. For Tamara, it was no different. Several job applications were rejected before Tropical Shipping was recommended by an acquaintance. It was her only silver lining, but one that raised several doubts.
Her experience in sales was non-existent and she had never even considered maritime as a plausible career option. During her interview with Tropical Shipping, the hiring manager asked Tamara, 'Why do you think this job is good for you? You have no experience in sales.'
Tamara's response to this simple question was all it took to seal the deal.
'Regardless of not having any experience in sales,' she told him. 'Whatever I do, I always do to the best of my ability.’
Tamara's 'no excuses' maxim helped her scale the ranks only six years into her career. She became the first female Dominican Country Manager. She was only thirty-two, and hesitant about being thrown into a role she never planned on filling, but she never let it show.
In fact, when asked about her experience at Tropical Shipping, Tamara confessed that walking into a male-dominated industry forced her to display more confidence than she possessed. The prior country manager was a prominent leader in the community with years of experience in the industry. Tamara was expected to live up to a particular level that he had set. As a result, she recognized that she needed to win the industry's respect right away.
Inspiring Young Women in Maritime
Although the maritime industry has been traditionally dominated by men, change must start somewhere. Tamara wishes to continue building on the efforts of the women who came before her in the Caribbean maritime industry to improve diversity.
She was appointed president of the Women in Maritime Association Caribbean (WiMAC) in 2021. WiMAC is one of seven regional networks of women professionals in the maritime sector established under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Tamara intends on focusing on creating a network of inspired women who will attract other women to the industry.
During Tamara’s term, she looks forward to working with the General Council of WiMAC to launch a mentorship program to cultivate leadership skills in young women in the maritime industry. Because representation is important, award ceremonies will be held to honor women who have contributed to the Caribbean maritime sector. “Little girls need to see our ‘sheroes’ in the maritime industry! They cannot be who they cannot see!”
'I like to say that the maritime industry as an employment option for women is the best-kept secret,' Tamara told Unstoppable Yes You. ‘There are many opportunities for women to grow and excel in the industry. Gender diversity and inclusion is critical to the future of the industry.”
Spoken Word Poet: Writing for a generation of women leaders
Tamara Lowe is an exceptional poet as she is a woman in Maritime.
She wrote her first poem at the age of 13. Since then, she has been continuously writing and has developed an 'intimate relationship' with her creations, which becomes even more powerful when she is performing on stage.
Lowe has participated in local and regional festivals including the Nature Island Literary Festival in Dominica and the Bocas Literacy Festival in Trinidad and Tobago in 2021. Participating in the Bocas Literacy Festival was the beginning of fantastic regional opportunities for Tamara. In December 2021, three of her poems (To You Who Love Him, What I Want, and To Little Black Girls Who May Never Be Told) were featured in the curated blog Acalabash alongside poets Anique Sylvestre from Martinique and Amilcar Sanatan from Trinidad and Tobago.
On reflecting on her inspiration for 'To Little Black Girls Who May Never Be Told,' Tamara was candid about the criticism she received from persons about her natural hair being ‘unprofessional’. This was all Tamara needed to keep writing for women like her and for girls who needed to hear these stories. “Just be who you are, unapologetically!' she encouraged with an infectious smile.
Tamara is currently working on her first book of poems, dedicated to black women. For more information, follow Tamara Lowe on YouTube and Instagram.