In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4EA, Mrs. Caroline Jupe, the new CEO of the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) refers to the key findings from latest IMRF campaign – the #WomeninSAR initiative, highlighting there is need for concerted effort from all industry stakeholders to address key barriers that the campaign acknowledged.
The result and feedback on this initiative have been overwhelmingly positive, Mrs Jupe explains, while it succeeded in identifying areas for improvement and opportunities available to women in maritime SAR. In that regard, mentoring and other in-post support schemes are necessary but first and foremost commitment of the management plays a crucial role. Mrs Jupe also talks about their new campaign- the #SARyouOK? Initiative which aims to increase awareness and break down the stigma attached to mental health and well-being issues of SAR personnel globally
SAFETY4SEA: What are your top priorities in the agenda taking the helm as CEO of the International Maritime Rescue Federation?
Caroline Jupe: IMRF has come a long way since it was founded as the International Lifeboat Conference (ILF), International Lifeboat Federation in 1924. I want to build on that legacy so that the IMRF continues to be relevant in this ever-changing maritime SAR environment. I want to ensure that our projects and initiatives keep pace with the challenges that the maritime SAR community faces on a daily basis. As we approach our centenary year, I also want to grow our membership even further, to expand the number of maritime SAR organisations, governments and commercial companies that we can collaborate with. That way we can make an even greater contribution to improving global maritime SAR capability.
S4S: What are the main challenges you are facing in your new role?
C.J.: As the CEO of the IMRF I want to continue to use our resources to support maritime SAR organisations by sharing best practices and raise awareness of the important work these organisations do. One significant challenge is funding and resourcing. The IMRF is a charity, and we rely on donations and charitable funds to support our growing portfolio of initiatives and resources. Funding is also an issue for some of our members. SAR operations can be costly, and SAR capabilities can vary significantly from one country to another, making it challenging to coordinate and implement effective international SAR efforts. Many developing countries need more adequate funding to develop and maintain SAR services. This is most notably the case in Africa and the IMRF has been working with our partners to support African SAR organisations as part of our Global Development Project. Training, education and investing in technological advances are all additional challenges faced by many smaller IMRF members. That is where the IMRF can really add value, by facilitating the sharing of information and expertise among the global SAR family. One example of this is an international scholarship programme to help fund participants from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to attend the forthcoming World Maritime Rescue Congress, which will take place in June 2023 in Rotterdam. So far this year, in collaboration with the IMO, we hosted our first #WomeninSAR seminar in Africa in Rabat, Morocco in February, with another one planned for April in Mombasa, Kenya. These seminars are really close to my heart and the purpose is to empower women in the maritime SAR community in Africa, so that they can be a force for change in their own organisations..
S4S: Which are the key barriers towards a more diverse and equal environment onboard and ashore and how your organization aims to assist the industry to overcome them? How these barriers can be turned into drivers/ opportunities?
C.J.: We have made excellent strides towards inclusion, especially in the SAR community. Overall, we receive positive feedback on initiatives like #WomeninSAR initiative. However, there are still gender biases and stereotypes. This is not unique to maritime only; many other industries are struggling with the same challenges. The maritime industry has historically been male dominated, which is also true for maritime SAR. This has resulted in gender bias and stereotypes that prevent women from pursuing careers in the industry. This includes assumptions that women are not as physically capable as men or unsuitable for specific roles. The need for visible role models and mentors for women and other under-represented groups in the maritime SAR can make it difficult for them to see themselves as part of the industry and to find support and guidance for their career development. Workplace culture and discrimination are also a challenge. This can create a work environment that could be less conducive to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce. A change in culture starts at the top. Recruitment practices can also be challenging. I feel strongly that gender should not play a role when recruiting candidates. If the person has the skills, experience and background, their gender should not be a factor. I really believe that the IMRF’s #WomeninSAR initiative has increased awareness of the issue and brought it out into the open. We have also produced resources for SAR organisations to use in developing their own strategies for change. Addressing these barriers will require a concerted effort from industry leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders to create a more inclusive and equitable maritime SAR industry. This could include targeted recruitment and training programmes, flexible work arrangements, diversity and inclusion training for managers and employees, and establishing industry-wide standards and policies to address discrimination and harassment. Only then will we be able to have a gender-balanced workforce.
S4S: What is your feedback for the recent #WomenInSAR campaign? Are you satisfied with industry stakeholders’ response? What are the key findings to move forward?
C.J.: The IMRF launched its #WomenInSAR initiative in 2019 to increase the representation of women in the maritime SAR ector sector and provide support for women and girls involved in maritime SAR. The result and feedback on this initiative have been overwhelmingly positive. In 2021 we worked with SAR organisations globally to identify areas that could have greater awareness, which included opportunities available to women in maritime SAR. Specific concerns raised by SAR women were wide-ranging in nature. The main issues raised were safety, equipment, training, and the effects on health – especially mental health – and family life. Emphasising the importance of a good, reliable team and sound, supportive management, thorough training, good equipment that fits properly and best practice in mitigating personal risk were all recommended. It is for managers at all organisational levels (including the board) to address discriminatory language, behaviours and attitudes and to set clear expectations for expected behaviour. This matter deserves more significant and urgent attention from the responses to this survey. Recruitment of more women is not sufficient in itself. Some survey responses highlighted poor equipment, facilities, working conditions, and even the language used in training materials as matters requiring review. Any identified shortfalls then need to be addressed. Promoting an organisational culture that positively encourages individual progress is a positive step. For such a culture to thrive, it must be genuinely supported at all levels of management (including at the board level) and within individual teams. It should extend to every part of the organisation and be gender blind. Mentoring and other in-post support schemes are highly recommended if they are not already in place. A senior manager (or board member) should be assigned to champion this work. Targeted surveys could help with the analysis of the local barriers to the recruitment of more female personnel into SAR roles.
S4S: Tell us a few words about your new campaign that aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of SAR personnel globally. What are the goals & aspirations of this initiative?
C.J.: The SAR community humbles me, and the response and engagement to this campaign has been incredible. SAR workers often face stresses not present in other high-risk fields of work. SAR first responders often put themselves in harm’s way, repeatedly putting their physical and mental well-being at risk. The #SARyouOK? initiative increases awareness and further breaks down the stigma attached to mental health and well-being issues those working in the maritime SAR sector face. We aim to work with SAR organisations, including our members, to produce a Guidance and Best Practice framework on Implementing Mental Health and Well-being Practices into SAR Organisations, providing tangible and practical advice that SAR organisations can use to implement in their operations. We will host an online workshop in April, as well as an in-person seminar on this subject in 2023.We also want to release several blogs, videos, and podcasts, allowing SAR responders and organisations to share their experiences.
S4S: What key lessons have you learned during your time in the industry, and what advice would you give to the next generation of shipping? Why do you believe young people should consider a future within the maritime industry and specifically the SAR sector?
C.J.: I am fortunate to have had a non-linear career. I started in a mostly female dominated fundraising sector to where I am today in a very male dominated industry. At our last World Maritime Congress that I attended in Vancouver a few years ago the keynote speaker for our #WomenInSAR campaign made a statement that resonated with me. She said that you cannot be what you cannot see. It is therefore very important to share stories of women in leadership on social media platforms, in your local communities and industries. You should not be defined by your gender, and your gender should not restrict you; you have a place and a voice. If we strive towards gender balance we should concentrate on the person’s abilities, skills and expertise – these should be the driving forces during recruitment. Attracting newcomers is important and there are many reasons to become part of the SAR community. Working in maritime SAR is very rewarding and allows you to make a real difference in people’s lives. A future in maritime SAR can be challenging and rewarding; it allows you to make a positive impact. If you have a passion for helping others and enjoy working in a dynamic and challenging environment, this is the career path for you.
S4S: What would it take for the maritime industry to achieve widespread diversity, equity, and inclusion? What role does management play in this shift?
C.J.: I will focus my comments on maritime SAR as part of the maritime industry. Management plays a crucial role in promoting equity and inclusion as it is a top-down approach. Managers set the tone of the culture in any organization. They not only need to set goals and develop appropriate policies, but they also need to be seen to be making those goals and policies a priority in their own behaviours and attitudes if there is to be a real culture change in an organisation. This is also not only applicable to women. It is vital that men can also work flexible hours and that policies help support both women and men. I travel a lot for work, but my husband has flexible hours meaning we can share childcare responsibilities. An organisation should be welcoming to all its workers. We invited women and men to a #WomeninSAR seminar in Finland; however, only two men attended. Men also need to be part of the conversation. If we are going to reach a stage of gender balance, we will need men on the journey with us; it’s not only women talking to women.
S4S: What is your wish list for the industry and/or regulators and all parties involved to foster Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the SAR sector?
C.J.: My ultimate wish is that by the time my daughter enters the workforce, we will not need a day to bring awareness to women, and we do not need discussions about equality and inclusion. By then, we would have achieved inclusion. However, I realise that this might be a tall order I have personally experienced the glass ceiling phenomenon. But I believe that women need to share their stories and experiences and talk about them. This will set the right path for future generations. If we think back to the 1950s, realistically, women had a choice between being a nurse, a secretary or a teacher. Today we have unlimited opportunities, and therefore we have phenomenal growth in all sectors. It is vital that our journey can take the next generation even further and that, in the end, we get to a place where gender bias and inequality no longer play a role.
S4S: If you could change one thing in the shipping industry from your perspective, what would it be and why?
C.J.: I was fortunate to have the support of Theresa Crossley, my predecessor at the IMRF, and an amazing mentor who believed in me. However, I would like organisations to acknowledge that everyone has a different journey and that people (men and women) have options. For example, women can return to work after having children and should be able to progress in their careers without bias, and men should equally be able to take time out to care for children without career disadvantage. It is essential to allow individuals to make choices about their careers. The organisation should refrain from making these decisions for you. Whether a woman decides to go back or not to go back to work after having a baby should not be determined by the organisation. Mentorship is, therefore, critical to ensure that women know about their options.
S4S: What is your message to industry stakeholders with regards to more sustainable future for the maritime industry?
C.J.: In June, the IMRF will be hosting the next World Maritime Rescue Congress in Rotterdam and sustainability will be a key theme for the three-day event. The overall theme for WMRC 2023 is ‘Towards sustainable maritime SAR – building on our history to secure our future’. WMRC will cover a wide range of sustainability topics. From funding and operating greener SAR operations to monitoring the impact of maritime SAR on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, we want to take a look at the future challenges our industry faces when it comes to sustainability and discuss the possible solutions. I hope we are able to come out of WMRC with a greater understanding and framework for ways to improve the sustainability and environmental impact of maritime SAR.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposesdiscussion purposes only.
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