Following the launch of Maritime Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Innovation Lab 2022 , powered by V-Box, we are glad to host an interview with Mr. Richard Holdsworth, Founding Partner of V-Box, who highlights that the key priorities for a more diverse, equal and inclusive maritime industry are Gender equality, Ethnicity, Generational diversity, Psychological Safety and Mental health & wellbeing.
SAFETY4SEA: Tell us a few words about the Maritime Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Innovation Lab 2022. What are your key priorities in your agenda?
Richard Holdsworth: The DEI Innovation lab has the objective to identify ideas, from as wide a population as possible, which can be developed into solutions which can have an impact on the maritime industry when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. The initiative is partner led with six major shipping companies involved. The partners all support the process of, not only selecting the most promising idea, but of supporting the team as we try and develop and test the concept “for real”. Key priorities are Gender equality, Ethnicity, Generational diversity, Psychological Safety and Mental health & wellbeing.
S4S: Which are the key barriers towards a more diverse and equal environment onboard and ashore? How these barriers can be turned into drivers/ opportunities?
R.H.: The key barrier is probably perception – the industry is perceived to be male dominated. This results in challenges to recruitment as well as retention.
S4S: What is the leadership required to shape a more diverse and equal working environment within the maritime industry? What should be the key focus areas?
R.H: Industry leaders are working hard to address the challenge already and the problem is broadly recognised and discussed. Key focus areas remain and many relate to the basic conditions on board vessels; how can leaders do more to ensure that the environment in which seafarers live and work is not only physically safe but also an environment where they can thrive.
S4S: How should the maritime organizations embed DEI issues effectively into their ESG strategy? What should be their key actions towards?
R.H.: Measurement is a good first step; what does the organization look like with regards to gender, ethnic and generational diversity? Then key actions should drive towards addressing any obvious shortfalls.
S4S: Currently, we are witnessing many considerable efforts toward women empowerment in the maritime community. What needs to be done further to support gender diversity in shipping? What is your advice to industry stakeholders?
R.H.: Something which seems to come up all the time is the need for more networking, sharing and mentoring. Many organisations are doing this already but somehow the efforts are not getting the necessary reach. In addition, more needs to be done to encourage students, of all backgrounds, to join the industry.
S4S: How can digitalization enhance diversity and inclusion in the maritime industry?
R.H.: Digital tools can support DEI in many ways, and they have the benefit of simple scalability. For example, new ways of training, using gamification or VR, can support DEI awareness through showing individuals what the impact of their actions may be.
S4S: If you could change one thing that would have an either profound or immediate impact on making a career in shipping more attractive to young men and women (outside the industry), what this one thing would it be and why?
R.H.: This is a difficult one! I would be tempted to reach out to schools and colleges and show, through the stories of successful men and women from the industry, that a career in maritime whilst challenging can also be tremendously rewarding and can offer something for almost anyone.
S4S: What is your key message to industry stakeholders with respect to a future of a more sustainable shipping?
R.H.: Make sure that the subject of DEI remains high on the agenda BUT remember that actions speak louder than words
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.
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