Why women are refraining from entering the shipping industry?
The foremost reason why women are not encouraged to enter the shipping are the perceptions that such jobs require skills more associated with men and subsequently they are meant only for men. Both families and society do not encourage women to choose seafaring as their career. Educators often do not provide the necessary skills and support to help young women while the absence of organizations and regional networks is yet another reason for less women seafarers.
Moreover, in many countries women are not allowed to be recruited to nautical courses, or even once trained, they may have to face prejudice from ship owners who won't employ them. And once employed, women seafarers may also face lower pay even though they are doing work equivalent to that of male seafarers.
Most women further fear to pursue such a career as they believe that they might have to deal with sexual harassment or even abuse while at sea, as well as low levels of support from co-workers.
Why shipping needs more women
Gone is the myth that ‘women are bad luck at sea’. This is an old saying but, living in the twenty-first century, we clearly understand that it is just a superstition. ILO is one of the organizations, who working along with IMO, has done important efforts towards strengthening women role in the shipping industry. ILO has outlined that having women aboard ships it gives a great advantage as it creates a more normal social environment. For example, it can reduce the sense of isolation felt by many seafarers.
Furthermore, labour surveys of the shipping sector have indicated an existing - and growing - shortfall of certain categories of seafarers, particularly officers. Therefore, women could be an underutilized source of maritime talent which we need to draw upon to make up this shortfall.
How could women tackle bullying or harassment?
Company hiring women seafarers have strict policies to protect and safeguard their rights and identity. It is of primary importance that a few maritime unions are making a concerted effort to help the industry move on. Thus, woman seafarers facing such discrimination must contact their trade union for support and advice.
WISTA is a networking organization for women at management level in the maritime industry. ILO brings together governments, employers and workers representatives of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men. ITF also supports work for women seafarers.
Specifically, the ITF is calling on employers, the ILO and trade unions to prioritise the following issues that have been identified as vitally important for women seafarers:
- Reducing gender stereotypes within the industry
- Provision of sanitary items on board ships
- Access to confidential medical advice and the contraceptive and morning-after pill
- Consistent and improved approach to maternity benefits and rights
- Development of sexual harassment policies and appropriate training, including within cadet training and education
- In 2013 the ITF released best practice guide named “Winning a better deal for women“ which was developed off the back of a survey of affiliate unions around the world.
- The same year, IMO produced a film, entitled “Women at the helm”, showing how the work of IMO, and others, is beginning to promote change for the better for women in shipping, and highlights first-hand experiences from some of those who have already succeeded.
- In 2014, the World Maritime University (WMU) and IMO published a book to highlight the achievements of women in the maritime sector, concluding the maritime industry needs more women, particularly in leadership roles.
- On United Nations day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Nautilus International has welcomed guidance from the International Labour Organisation on how companies should prevent workplace violence.
- On 2 August 2015, the UN issued position paper setting out UN Women’s suggestions for global indicators to effectively monitor how the SDGs are being implemented for women and girls. IMO continues to support the participation of women in both shore-based and sea-going posts, in line with the goals outlined under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5: "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls", under the slogan: Training-Visibility-Recognition.
- In 2015, the IMO launched the video “Making Waves: women leaders in the maritime world” in support of International Women’s Day 2015. The video reports on continuing efforts by IMO and the World Maritime University (WMU) to promote the advancement of women in shipping.
- From 4 April 2016, the Maersk Group implemented a new maternity policy that improves benefits during and after maternity leave for employees globally. The maternity leave, at full pay, is followed by a phased reintegration to work over the next six months, allowing new mothers the opportunity of four-day workweeks. This new policy also includes one week of paternity leave, in the first week following a birth or adoption of a new baby. Even in The Netherlands, where statutory maternity leave is extensive and among the most generous worldwide, this new standard represents an improvement over what is required by law.
- In 2016, the BBC and BHP Billiton further took steps to ensure that moving forward women make up 50% of their workforce.
- ICS, ITF and ECSA also updated the guidelines for all seafarers on how to eliminate workplace harassment and bullying which may aid women seafarers as well.
Also view the following relevant videos:
Also view the following relevant videos: