Cristina Saenz de Santa Maria is the regional manager for DNV maritime southeast Asia, Pacific and India. She started working for DNV after graduating university, and further developed a strong passion for the company’s purpose . Cristina never had the intention of staying with the same company throughout her career, but her drive and DNV´s strong and meaningful purpose resulted in her never leaving.
-It is the purpose of the company that has motivated me in my work. When I learned more about it’s safeguarding, life, property and environment, I got very attached. I felt like I was contributing to something big. (…) Ensuring that supply chains continue is extremely important, and shipping is a big part of that. This is something that the world realized during covid, when everything was delayed because of the blockage in the Suez Canal.
Further, she encourages more women to choose the same career path as herself.
-The world energy system is so exciting! There is a need for people, especially now, with the decarbonising and the effort getting put into making things cleaner, safer and greener. Taking care of the planet and the energy we use is an important mission. Explore it, your work can impact future generations!
Being responsible for 11 countries from New Zealand to India, Cristina is a busy lady. With a passion for traveling and exploring new cultures, she has worked and lived in Spain, South Korea, Norway, South Africa and now Singapore. Through her career, she has never limited herself because of her gender. She believes that standing out and being different in your workplace can be a strength rather than a weakness – if you let it.
-I did not have to break a glass ceiling
Growing up, both of her parents were managers, constantly traveling with work. Therefore, there was never a doubt in her mind regarding her gender and choice of profession. Working in a male-dominated industry, she sees the importance of diversity in role models for children to look up to.
-The change starts in school and at home!
She points out that in many households there exists a traditional idea of the mother not choosing a busy career path with a lot of responsibility. In the Saenz’s household this was not the case.
-Working was very natural, and in my mind I did not have to break any glass ceiling. My mother was working and traveling, so I followed in her footsteps. (…) My parents have always been there for me, encouraging and supporting me in my decisions – some a little more crazy than others, she says with a smile.
Cristina adds that it can be complicated to reconcile family life with work.
-A dinner with a customer can mean that I miss dinner with my children, but it also means that I can gain a contract. When that happens it feels good as well, makes me feel proud and that can indirectly make that when I am back at home I am a better mother. Knowing and acknowledging that you cannot do everything at once, is not just a woman thing, it is important for everyone. (…) You always need to sacrifice something, sometimes at work and other times at home.
How do you experience the maritime industry’s approach to diversity?
-We still have a long way to go, and It’s a very complex topic. (…) Fortunately, the majority is recognizing the problem, but the change is not gonna come naturally, and we all need to make an extra effort. (…) I think everyone needs to contribute to a change, but there is no easy solution to this problem. We need to push ourselves, and start with the kids in school. If they see more women in leader and manager roles, they will see this possibility, just like I did with my mother.
When Cristina first started university, she noticed that the study direction was very male-dominated. Therefore it was not a shock coming into the maritime industry, seeing that she was one of the only women. Today, she notices that the industry is advancing, and points out that there is an increasing amount of women coming into maritime settings.
-In DNV we really push ourselves to have as many women as possible in the selection process. This means that we need to look further, and dig deeper. To recruit more women takes time, and we have to be patient and accept this to achieve our diversity goal.
Further, she points out that there are many dimensions of diversity. She emphasizes the importance of diversity on all levels, including age, gender, nationality and background.
What is your advice to future females entering the maritime industry?
-There is always prejudice with people. If it’s because of gender, so be it! Try to focus on doing a good job and being helpful. People will then forget their doubts very quickly. In parallel, we need to work on minimizing the biases that society might have.