SAFETY4SEA: What does diversity mean for the shipping industry?

Heidi Heseltine: When looking at this subject, we have to accept that diversity and inclusion go hand in hand.  You cannot achieve diversity without first having an inclusive environment and culture.  Diversity is the mixture of individuals in society, while inclusion is allowing that mixture to exist and work well together.  The benefits of this to any industry are a more collaborative, engaged and motivated workforce resulting in greater loyalty, creativity, innovation and ultimately performance.

S4S: What are the goals & aspirations of the newly established Diversity Study Group to boost diversity in shipping industry?

H.H.: The Diversity Study Group is the first organisation dedicated to championing diversity and inclusion in all forms in shipping. We are a leading resource and centre of excellence for diversity and inclusion for the shipping and energy industries and comprised of experts with shipping, employee attraction and retention, diversity and inclusion, and analytical expertise.

S4S: What would be the key challenges for greater diversity, inclusion and equality onboard and ashore in the next 5-10 years?

H.H.: A key challenge is in attracting employees into the shipping industry and providing them with environments that meet the demands for diverse and inclusive workplaces.  Another significant challenge is in educating those already in our industry regarding the benefits of diversity and having them engage proactively in the process so that it permeates through all areas of a business and is seen, and acted upon, as a business priority.

S4S: In comparison to other industries, do you think that sufficient work is already underway in terms of diversity within the shipping industry? What can we learn from others to move forward?

H.H.: Absolutely not.  Shipping is lagging far behind other industries, the majority of shipping organisations have either not started looking at this or are only at the beginning of their diversity journey.  The opportunity for us to learn from other sectors is vast as we can take advantage of proven processes and more importantly be aware of potential pitfalls.

Eg a recent study of over 450 HR professionals found the main two barriers to the effectiveness of Diversity and Inclusion programmes are an availability of measurement resources and a lack of reliable benchmark data.  We have pre-empted this within the work we are undertaking in the Diversity Study Group by providing both measurement resources and benchmark data for the industry.

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?

H.H.: We need to recognise that the industry has a diversity challenge and identify exactly where those challenges lie, which is what we are doing through the Diversity in Shipping Study.  With the statistics in hand, we can then identify the areas requiring support and development.

The Diversity Study Group’s work is recognised for proactively promoting the benefits of diversity and inclusion.  We bring together senior management and HR professionals from across the industry globally to share the challenges that are being faced and highlight best practice methodologies and industry initiatives being adopted to facilitate the necessary changes.  The opportunity this presents is a collaborative approach to support the creation of workplaces where all employees feel valued and able to contribute, allowing the potential for innovation, creativity and performance to be realised.

S4S: This year, IMO WMD theme was dedicated to women empowerment in the maritime community. What needs to be done further to support gender diversity in shipping?

H.H.: Education and environment are key.  We need to ensure that, as with all aspects of diversity, we educate people throughout organisations regarding the benefits of greater gender diversity – for any initiatives to succeed, we have to have buy in.  Secondly, we must create a working environment that supports the diversity objectives we have – this is from setting the requirements for the job, to the core job function through to training, mentoring and development, and networking opportunities.  Benefits and working initiatives also need to be structured to reflect the working demographic we are looking to attract and identify with.  Measurement of the objectives and their successes, or failures, is also critical.

S4S: What is your key message to industry stakeholders with respect to a future of a more sustainable shipping?

H.H.: The employment landscape is changing and, in order to be sustainable, we must change with it.  Shipping is a very reactive industry but from a talent attraction perspective, we stand to benefit the most if we look ahead and plan accordingly.

In what has been hailed as a landmark statement, The Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of many of America's largest companies, announced that it now views the purpose of a company to be not just for shareholders, but for all stakeholders including employees and communities. Among the 181 signatories are the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, and JPMorgan Chase.

This is a clear demonstration of the changes underway and evidence that businesses are placing increasing importance on the value of their employees.  Millennials and Generation Z correlate diversity with a forward-thinking mindset, viewing diversity as a tool for boosting both business and professional performance, especially when diversity is embedded in the senior management teams.  A recent study of Generation-Z found that 77% of respondents said that the level of diversity with a potential employer affects their decision to work there.

Those seeking a competitive edge and wanting to be a sought-after employer need to ensure they very quickly have in place the necessary diversity and inclusion strategies, programmes and initiatives.  As an international industry with access to a global workforce, we should work collaboratively, as well as individually, to become diversity leaders.


The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.

About Heidi Heseltine

Heidi is a Co-Founder of the Diversity Study Group which supports the undisputed requirement for greater equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and CEO of Halcyon Recruitment.