Celebrated every year on March 8th, International Women’s Day serves both as an honorary day for women, and a reminder of the struggle they encounter due to their gender. Women around the world have historically been faced with bias, violence, inequality, and all sorts of misconducts, simply because they were women. The lacking numbers and the dismissive treatment of women in shipping, especially female seafarers, has been one of the most prominent cases of discrimination based on gender.
Unfortunately, these phenomena have not yet ceased to exist, even as we live in an era of information and technology. Even though humanity now has countless tools at its disposal, injustice is ever present. The issue of inequality based on gender has been discussed thoroughly in the past decades. However, the International Women’s Day motto this year does not exactly ask for equality but rather, equity.
I raise up my voice — not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard … we cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.
― Malala Yousafzai
As stated by the movement, #EmbraceEquity is campaign theme is to get the world talking about why equal opportunities aren’t enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.
Equity vs Equality
Equity is a step further than equality. Equality represents the idea that everyone should be presented with the same opportunities. Equity, on the other hand, implements the human factor more as doesn’t believe in same opportunities for all, but rather opportunities for each and every one in accordance with themselves.
The idea is perfectly explained in the image above. The goal is not to present everyone with a bike and be done with it. The goal is for each person to have a bike that they can actually ride and enjoy. This distinguishment is of the utmost importance as it leaves no room for superficial looks into the situation.
Gains are made for #women worldwide, but there's more to do. Collectively, we can all challenge #genderstereotypes, call out #discrimination & draw attention to #bias. Let's #EmbraceEquity to create places & spaces where women thrive 👉🏽 https://t.co/yvAXmQnnxd #IWD2023 pic.twitter.com/pYMlugSYhl
— Women's Day (@womensday) March 7, 2023
We can even use the shipping industry’s example to understand this. Women are perfectly allowed to work in ships as crew members. However, this rarely happens as women are faced with discrimination. The opportunity is there but it has not been well adjusted to accommodate them.
Key industry initiatives
However, even in adverse conditions, women prevail and demand their rights. Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) is a bright example of this fact. WISTA promotes diversity in the maritime, trading and logistics sectors, empowering women to lead through their unique perspective and competencies, with the conviction that gender diversity is key in providing a sustainable future for the shipping industry internationally. To remind, last year, WISTA in collaboration with IMO, launched a major initiative, the Maritime SheEO Leadership Accelerator Programme 2022, with the aim to support women along their leadership journey.
Apart from WISTA’s international background, many national organizations exist such as Pacific Women in Maritime Association (PacWIMA), Network of Professional Women in the Maritime and Port Sectors for West and Central Africa (NPWMP-WCA), Association for Women in the Maritime Sector in Eastern and Southern Africa region (WOMESA), Women in Maritime Association etc.
IMO’s dedicated day on Women
International Marine Organization (IMO) has also employed tactics to make shipping industry jobs more accessible to women. For instance, in 2022 IMO established May 18th as the International Day for Women in Maritime. IMO also takes a practical approach to support women in the industry and especially seafarers by giving them access to high-level technical training and by creating the environment in which women are identified and selected for career development opportunities in maritime administrations, ports and maritime training institutes.
IMO is strongly committed to helping its Member States achieve the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 5, for achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls.
This year, The UN, has employed International Women’s Day, to conduct a study on Innovation and technology for gender equality, with the motto #DigitALL.
According to the UN, 37% of women have no access to the internet. Despite making up over half of the world’s population, there are 259 million fewer women than males who have internet access. They are unable to acquire the necessary digital skills without online connection. Their chances of pursuing careers in fields relating to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are reduced as a result. By 2050, 75% of jobs will be in STEM fields.
Even those who have the technological background acquired to pursue a career in these fields are often discouraged by society as these are traditionally seen as “men’s jobs”. The same notion is what often discourages women from pursuing careers in the shipping industry.
The UN will investigate how growing economic and social inequality is impacted by the digital gender gap. It will also highlight how crucial it is to defend women’s and girls’ online rights and deal with gender-based violence.
How industry celebrates this year’s Women’s International Day: New actions
This year, many organizations and companies have taken initiatives to support women in shipping. For example, the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, continuing last years Rewriting Women into Maritime History effort, is using International Women’s Day 2023 to call for more organizations to search their archives and submit stories of women’s vital role in global shipping through the ages, in an effort to raise the profile of maritime expertise, experience and leadership. The action is supposed to empower women by reframing the narrative of a predominantly masculine industry and promoting opportunities to encourage more women into the sector.
Seafarers’ Charity has released a report on the welfare needs of women working on cargo ships. The key issues the report highlights are women seafarers’ concerns about their personal safety, their feelings of fear and isolation the fundamental lack of practical facilities to support menstruation. The aim of this report is to remind the maritime welfare sector to be aware of, and engage with, the welfare needs of women seafarers to ensure they are not overlooked, and their safety is protected. The Charity is calling on its funded charities to consider increasing their support for women working at sea – especially those working in the male-dominated cargo sector.
Additionally, Anglo-Eastern Group has launched ‘Anglo-Eastern Women of Sea’ (AWOS) network on International Women’s Day primarily to provide global platform for women seafarers to share knowledge and experiences, and also provide mentorship and support. It will also work to address the gender imbalance that exists within the maritime industry and provide support for women seafarers in overcoming the challenges which might occur in their careers and lives.
In conclusion, inequality and discrimination based on gender exists to this day in many factors of our lives. Alas, if we, as a society, continue to strive for better conditions and global human rights, international forces and organizations are bound to further follow our lead and shape even better conditions through education and law.
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