During a panel discussion at Posidonia last week, the WISTA Hellas ‘Women at Sea’ seminar, examined the challenges facing women seafarers as well as food for thought on how to support them throughout their careers.
he panel discussion, outlined that progress towards gender equality is real but outdated attitudes continue to obstruct fair treatment for women working at sea.
Currently, women seafarers represent just 1.2% of the global seafaring workforce. Asked about why she thought this was the case, based on her experience at sea, Georgia Darsaklis, Master Mariner, Olympic Shipping Management, cited outright bias against women, but also the need to balance work and family commitments, and a lack of access to the social networks which lead to opportunities in shipping companies.
Before choosing the profession of seafaring, we need to be prepared mentally, physically and emotionally to survive. You will also need proper mentors, but that can take time because one of the most difficult things is being accepted as part of the team
In addition, Leonidas Dimitriades-Eugenides, Chairman, Eugenides Foundation and IMO Goodwill Maritime Ambassador for Greece, counselled the need for a holistic approach to address all of the challenges in shipping, if the “correct ecosystem” was to emerge.
It’s a question of education, training, mentoring and leadership in a world which is changing. It is not a question of men and women. If all systems are developed to be more open-minded, resilient and accommodating, it will be best for all of us
Moreover, Cees Horvers, Managing Director, Wagenborg Crew Management, provided straightforward reasons to explain why diversity improves results. As he said, “the first one is numbers: if you ignore women onboard, or in any job for that matter, you ignore 50% of the labour potential.”
However, maternity could not be ignored as a topic, and WISTA Hellas panellists agreed that feeling that a choice has to be made between motherhood and career, or that motherhood can be a barrier to career progression, can lead women to leave their profession.
In fact, Vivi Kolliopoulou, Insurance Manager, Angelicoussis Group, believes that there needs to be an entire network to support women seafarers from the very start and throughout their careers, including when they are in need of maternity.
Options need to be given to women who want to become mothers so they can transfer onshore for a period of time. It’s a matter of personal choice whether they want to continue their careers onboard or not, but today companies don’t have processes to support the choices of women