VALLEJO, CA — California State University Maritime Academy adjourned its 12th Annual Women in Maritime Leadership conference yesterday in Vallejo, Calif. This year’s conference brought together cadets from five different academies and provided a unique opportunity for current and future leaders in the maritime profession to gather and discuss equity-focused leadership. This leadership development event is designed to encourage future maritime leaders to confront and focus on the issues of gender equity, career planning, and amplifying the voices of women and members of the LGBTQ+ community through personal insight, resilience, and overall personal empowerment.   

The conference’s opening speaker was Vice Admiral Joanna Nunan, superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. Admiral Nunan is a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and offered insights into the challenges that women and historically marginalized populations face during careers in the U.S. merchant fleet. She highlighted sexual assault and sexual harassment (SASH) as critical challenges for leadership to address. She noted there has been a great deal of recent government and industry effort to combat SASH.  

“We at Cal Maritime are proud to welcome women leaders of the maritime industry to this conference,” said Samar Bannister, captain of Cal Maritime’s Training Ship Golden Bear (TSGB). “We hope to continue to lead in this transformation in the maritime community by supporting and advancing the focus of sexual assault and sexual harassment, including the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Information Bulletin #1-23. Continuing this transformation will ensure a safe and equitable training environment for our cadets. We welcome our partners in the maritime industry to join us in our longstanding emphasis on the importance of creating a safe working environment aboard vessels that is respectful to all.”  

Cal Maritime has also led in this effort along with the other five State Maritime Academies (SMAs) and has been working over the past year with the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and representatives of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to ensure that all cadets who participate in Sea Training are safe and respected. The University has worked with the other SMAs to assist MARAD on its development of the “Every Mariner Builds a Respectful Climate” (EMBARC) program to create universal policy standards for implementation this spring. These improvements include initiating mandatory in-person, in-depth SASH training for all faculty, staff and cadets going on TSGB cruise, developing a clear protocol for Title IX-related issues occurring while on cruise, designated Title IX liaisons aboard the TSGB cruise, and other additional safety, education, and training measures incorporated into the TSGB Safety Management System.   

SMAs also comply with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a federal law enacted in 1994 requiring colleges and universities to report domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, beyond categories the Clery Act already mandates, adopt student discipline procedures such as notifying victims of their rights, and adopt institutional policies to address and prevent campus sexual violence, such as training institutional personnel in pertinent aspects. Through this multi-tier host of regulatory compliance, the SMAs commit to responding to and addressing as well as reporting statistics regarding instances of SASH, were it to occur on a training vessel they operate. Midshipmen and cadets of the academies also undergo extensive SASH training. This includes complying with the recent USCG bulletin and working with MARAD on the new reporting responsibilities.  

These topics, in addition to sessions about prioritizing mental health and well-being, building strong support networks, and ensuring equitable and sustainable futures for all, were examined thoroughly during the two-day conference and allowed for meaningful dialogue between cadets and top experts. The Women in Maritime Leadership conference also received sponsorship from the following industry leaders: Pasha Group, Matson, Port of Oakland, SF Bar Pilots, Washington Pilotage Commission, Puget Sound Pilots, Norton Lilly, American Maritime Officers (AMO), and the Military Sealift Command.  

 "We will continue to be leaders in this effort to combat and eliminate incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment at our universities, at sea, and in the industry,” said Kathleen McMahon, vice president of Cadet Leadership and Development. “This conference was a testament to how the maritime academies partner with our maritime industry leaders in committing to strong advocacy around equity and faithful compliance on matters related to sexual assault and sexual harassment, inclusion, and safety so that all mariners have the experience and future they deserve.” 


Established in 1929, California State University Maritime Academy is the only degree-granting maritime academy on the West Coast. Located in Vallejo, California, the campus serves nearly 1,000 students and offers undergraduate degrees preparing students for careers in engineering, transportation, international relations, business, and global logistics. The new oceanography degree program launched in the fall of 2020. Cal Maritime also offers a master’s degree in Transportation and Engineering Management, as well as a number of extended learning programs and courses.