According to an IMO-WISTA research, women account for only 29% of the overall workforce in the maritime industry. Women seafarers make up just 2% of the crewing workforce and are predominately found in the cruise sector, while in ship-owning companies, they make up 34% of the workforce. Women may be less but that doesn’t mean they should be less-than. As the maritime industry strives to be more diverse and inclusive, women should not be left out, a panel during the 2023 Crew Welfare Week highlighted.
he panel, moderated by Anastasia Kypriotaki, News Editor, SAFETY4SEA, discussed the next steps towards a more diverse and inclusive maritime industry. The following female representatives shared interesting viewpoints: Capt. Ayse Asli Basak, Shipping Operations Manager, Mid-Ship Group LLC; Sophia Bullard, Crew Health Programme Director, Thomas Miller P&I Ltd; Ondrilla Fernandes, Employment Affairs Advisor, International Chamber of Shipping and; Elina, Souli, General Secretary, WISTA Hellas.
Empowering more women to join maritime
Starting the discussion, Odrilla Fernandes encouraged industry to prioritize equal opportunities for all and focus on training and education to inspire change and explained ICS’s three pillar framework towards a more diverse and inclusive environment. She referred to Diversity Charter which is a free tool for companies to evaluate their current situation in their diversity journey.
We need to spread awareness as to the possibilities, the various career opportunities women have within the maritime industry.
pinpointed Elina Soulis. In that regard, the IMO- WISTA maritime speakers bureau is calling up all the women professionals to share their expertise and experience, giving voice to women to showcase there is a big variety and become good role models for all the women who would like to join the industry.
‘’We can all do something to help and raise the profile of women’’ said Sophia Bullard. ‘
Often people don’t have a positive example or a role model to look at and that may put them off from joining. But all the small steps we are making are positive. This is a long journey to regain balance in the industry’
Continuing, Ayse Asli Basak agreed with the aforementioned viewpoints, stressing that, when it comes to diversity at sea, firstly, we need to understand why women’s participation shows low attendance. As the conditions onboard are quite challenging, ships may still find it so much attractive to join life at sea.
‘’If we do not solve this problem, it will become more difficult to attract more women. Therefore, we have to understand the physical problems of women and facilitate the conditions at sea’’ , she said.
Key characteristics for women to fit in maritime careers
‘A young woman should not be discussed by the stereotypes’ noted Elina Soulis who argued that industry’s mindset will eventually change but it needs time. Until that time, women should not be discouraged by stereotypes. Overall, a career in maritime, for both males and females, requires hard work, dedication and perseverance.
In addition, young women should seek guidance and keep focusing on their goals. In that regard, WISTA has established a mentorship program where members can learn from other’s experience.
‘Self confidence and resilience are important’’ mentioned Sophia Bullard.
Moving on, Ayse Asli Basak advised young women to be ready to fight with unconscious bias from people at the same working environment while Odrilla pinpointed that ICS has created a diversity panel to discuss such matters.
Since shipping is considered as a male-dominated industry, overcoming bias has been recognized as a prevailing issue. ‘’It is important females to remain determined and persevere through the difference obstacles’ said Odrilla and suggested, in turn, to promote continuous education and learning and ensure good networking and mentorship.
Wrapping up the discussion, Sophia encouraged the industry to try and be the best ambassadors for younger people who are thinking of a maritime career.
Providing the younger generation with education and awareness, whilst breaking down barriers so that a more diverse workforce can become involved and prosper in the industry would only benefit it, according to Sophia.
The Maritime industry sometimes gets a bad reputation, if we start listening to what younger people have to say then maybe we can change that.
How to prepare vessels and crews for more women seafarers
Aside from aesthetic changes that could be made to the ships, i.e. improvements on sleeping arrangements, cabin facilities, toiletry facilities, it is of paramount importance to improve safety and security for female crew members on board, Sophia Bullard highlighted.
She asserted that women should have the security to feel safe in the workforce and that toxic behavior should not be tolerated.
The problem lies on the conditions of ships onboard, Aysle Asli Basak noticed, explaining that some of the ships have common cabins and not separate toilets and bathrooms. This is a physical problem that requires solution, especially when it comes to small size and older vessels.
‘’After the digitalization and the standardization of the construction standards at sea, vessels are becoming more suitable for women’’ Aysle Asli Basak added. Nonetheless, a lot of effort is still required to make the environment onboard equal to women.
In this regard, Elina Souli agreed that a change in mentality should start from the shipping company by training the crew accordingly and prepare them to work with female colleagues in advance.
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