Thursday, July 25, 2024

Elizabeth Marami: How women should break barriers, lead in entrepreneurship

By Gloria Rebecca

Whoever claimed women cannot match what men do clearly never met Elizabeth Marami. Liz comes from a background that didn’t buy into gender roles.

She shattered expectations in a male-dominated field, sailing beyond everyone’s predictions to become Kenya’s first female Marine Pilot.

Elizabeth spoke at the Absa InspireMe 2024 conference, sharing how her goal changed from yearning to leave her parent’s home and live abroad courtesy of a scholarship, to setting out to disrupt the maritime industry.

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After earning her Second Officer unlimited license, she launched a digital storytelling platform called ‘Against the Tides’. She shared stories of women who have made great impacts in the world.

“Entrepreneurship is when an individual who has an idea, acts on the idea usually to disrupt the current market with a new product or service,” she said.

Through her stories, Liz has empowered women in her field to the extent that they are now commemorated annually with an International Women in Maritime Day.


Her advocacy for equality has earned her a seat at the table, where her voice is now influential and respected.

“I’m set on disrupting this market (The Maritime Industry) and making people realize that someone who looks like me can and will command that $1.3 billion ship one day because I am the business and I stand on business.”

Early Life & Background

Liz, a girl who was brought up in the coastal regions of Kenya, did not think she would ever go out to sea, especially not as a marine pilot.


After her high school studies at Mama Ngina Girls’ High School, Mombasa, Kenya, Liz joined the University of Nairobi to pursue a career in Law but later changed her mind after she landed a scholarship to pursue Navigation in Alexandria, Egypt.

When she got to Alexandria, Liz faced a few challenges here and there, starting from her class where she was not only the only female but her skin colour was also different which made her stand out.

She was looked down upon most of the time by her fellow students and even the lecturers.

“I remember raising my hand to ask a question in class several times and I ended up being ignored all those times. Some comments even said that I was just there to fill in the diversity gap and that is when my mission changed.”

“I wanted to prove to them that I was there to do more than fill the diversity gap,” she said at the AbsaInpireMe conference held on June 19th 2024.

Even after all of this, Liz still emerged to be among the top performers in her class after she was done with her studies in 2013.

She then realized that she had set her own standards and she must work to maintain them and even go beyond in order to attain what she wants and get to where she wanted.

After her graduation, Liz decided to come back home and look for a job in the marine sector since she needed work experience to attain her license.

She applied for several jobs multiple times but was not getting lucky with any of them. The response she was getting was that women were not being hired; especially not a woman from Africa.

She finally landed a job as a marine pilot under the supervision of a senior pilot. That is when she realized that her second officer license would not have her sitting at the table with the big boys.

She then started a digital storytelling platform called ‘Women Going Against the Tied’. Here she told stories about women across the whole world with nothing to fear. She wanted to be heard.

Elizabeth Marami: How women should break barriers, lead in entrepreneurship

Liz, after going to the offices and complaining about her experience, got a call from Italy that she could go work with them. She later on got sent to France where she was promoted to third officer.

That is when her sea service started working for her. During this time, Liz was approached by the largest cruising industry, The Royal Caribbean Group.

The Royal Caribbean Group heard of her from the ‘destruction’ that she caused in the digital storytelling platform about women not being treated equally in the maritime sector.

Kenyan pilots who passed flying batons to their daughters

They offered her a higher position where she joined the group as a second officer. She then went to the United Kingdom and got certified by the most prestigious Maritime School. She came back as first officer after working for the certification and getting it.

Liz was later promoted to chief officer deck when the ship was being brought to dry dock and she was under supervision from her male counterpart but she proved herself once again.

She was promoted to chief officer of navigation and she is now two months away from attaining the highest certification in the maritime sector.

She learnt to be resilient in all of this and was not fazed by the fact that she was a woman or black. She knew what she wanted in life and she went for it.

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