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Published on: 22nd October 2021
From enduring wolf whistles to being on the board of directors at a major shipping company – it’s been a 33-year voyage of discovery for Nikki Sayer.
And as she reflects on winning the Breaking The Mould title at the Tees Businesswomen’s Awards 2021, she says that being female in a largely male-dominated industry has been challenging but immensely rewarding.
An executive board director at River Tees-based Casper Shipping, one of the UK’s leading maritime service companies, Nikki leads the customs division and has played a critical role moving goods in and out of the UK pre and post-Brexit, achieving over 500 per cent growth in sales.
Her career began 33 years ago as a British Steel planning analyst YTS in an all male team at the Redcar blast furnace but progressed rapidly, with roles including logistics planner for the vast Scunthorpe works, various key positions in the company’s shipping division and three years as global shipping manager in Dubai.
Between 1994-2001, she worked in various shipping divisions within BS, before a stint travelling in New Zealand and Australia.
Nikki took up a position as global shipping manager in Dubai, where she remained for three years, before moving to Australia with her family.
But on her return to the UK, she took up a position as logistics trainer at Middlesbrough College’s STEM centre before moving to Casper Shipping in 2016.
Since then, as well as gaining a directorship at Casper, she has also became the first female chair of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers’ NE branch and founded the North East School of Shipping, which aims to showcase career opportunities and develop skills in the industry.
And admitting to be “absolutely overwhelmed” to win the award, she reflects: “I’ve been a woman working in a man’s world for a long time but I think I’ve been doing a lot to help bring young people in to the shipping industry.
“When I first started there were wolf whistles and lots more things you can’t do these days. But do you know what? It made me stronger, it made me give it back to them and that’s helped make me the person I am today and has helped me win this award.
“Sometimes you don’t want to bang the drum about women doing a job because we’re just doing a job, but I’m really pleased to be here representing women in industry – and especially the shipping industry, which doesn’t get represented enough.”
Head of diversity at Casper and a Commissioner for the Maritime Skills Commission, Nikki is also a Fellow at the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) and the first female chair of its North-East branch.
In short, in the traditionally male-dominated shipping industry, she has broken through the stereotypical culture and placed her unique stamp on it.