Earlier in 2018, ETF and ECSA discussed possible solutions to increase women’s participation in the shipping industry in Europe, a traditionally male-dominated industry where only about 2% of seagoing Masters and officers are female.

Key causes of the low participation of women in shipping

ETF and ECSA agree that the main root causes can be summarized as follows:

  • Image: shipping is often perceived by the general public as a harsh sector to work in
  • Working conditions: long periods away from home make it difficult to reconcile work and family life
  • Male domination: since there are so few women working in the industry, work at sea is often perceived as a job for boys and men. Ships are closed communities and in most cases serve as a seafarer’s home as well as a workplace. Concerns about the possibility of gender stereotyping and discrimination may deter potential female applicants.

Shared priorities

Based on the above-mentioned root causes, ETF and ECSA declare their readiness to develop joint actions to tackle the following priority topics:

  • An Awareness-raising campaign: to increase the awareness of the attractive career opportunities in shipping both at sea and ashore, where many openings exist for persons with seagoing qualifications and experience (e.g. through female role models). This includes working to increase knowledge of and dispel outdated and inaccurate perceptions of the industry.
  • Measures to recruit and retain women in the industry, such as ensuring the provision of female-friendly facilities on board ships, promoting shipboard cultures that promote the dignity of all crew members, communicating about long-term career opportunities at sea and ashore.
  • Gender policies in the workplace: it is suggested to develop training modules on gender, policies on work-life balance, as well as policies on bullying and harassment based on the joint ECSA- ETF guidelines and training materials.

Both social partners will focus on these priority issues as from 2019. Implementation will be sought either through EU-funded social partners’ projects, or through dedicated working groups in the framework of the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for maritime transport. Any joint action will be based on past work, such as the joint ECSA-ETF Guidelines to shipping companies to prevent on-board bullying and harassment. The agreed action will be designed to ensure that recommendations and guidance are provided in order to assist both shipping companies and seafarers’ organisations in promoting change and a corporate culture and behaviour that is conducive to recruitment and retention of women.