There is a role for women in the maritime world.
This is not a question in the 21st century but a statement and in fact, it should read that there
are now multiple roles for women in every aspect of maritime work across the globe. This is why
IMO made 2019 World Maritime Day theme "Empowering Women in the Maritime Community"
Why does the maritime sector need gender balance?
There is ample evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities,
companies, and even countries. Countries with more gender equality have better economic
growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better (see study, The Bottom Line:
Corporate Performance and Women's Representation on Boards). Peace agreements that
include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key
social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support.
It makes sense in purely business terms. Equality for women means progress for all. The OECD
has estimated that equalising the role of women and men in the labour market could increase
GDP by 10% by 2030. McKenzie Why diversity matters report states, that in the UK, greater
gender diversity of the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in
our data set: for every 10 percent increase in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5 percent.
McKinsey’s further recent research into over 1000 companies across 12 countries found the top
quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to enjoy above-average profitability than those
in the bottom quartile
The current situation
According to HR Consulting, over 76% of the women's land based workforce operated at
administrative, junior and professional level roles in 2017, with few reaching managerial levels
The Women in Maritime organisation pointed out recently that according to the International
Transport Workers’ Federation only 2% of the world’s maritime workforce is made up of women
and in a 2015 survey by International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) 60%
of all women working at sea are on cargo vessels and 40% within the cruise sector. Add to that
the fact that onshore, women hold 55% of global maritime junior-level positions, compared with
9% of executive-level and it's not hard to see why there is still a long way to go for women who
want to be a part of the global maritime industry.
The maritime world is still searching for a comprehensive gender balance, one that treats
women in the maritime environment as equals to men. For many women though, the work and
life balance as a seafarer can be a challenging task and these obstacles are commonly seen
preventing women from taking on shipping careers.
What is clear from current practices is that women need to be attracted into the maritime world
and not simply with financial incentives. There is a need to develop mentoring and training
programmes that will offer career opportunities on land and a real need to improve conditions
for women who work at sea as part of an overall balance in improving working conditions for
every seafarer, regardless of gender.
Digital technology has opened up a whole new raft of opportunities for women in the maritime
sector. The qualifications needed to engineer, operate and manage shipping, develop new
systems for logistics and ports are all part of this ongoing process and women have as much to
offer in this regard as men. “Diversity is necessary for the industry to grow, adapt and renew
itself. The changes and challenges faced by the shipping industry require a renewed strategic
approach and a broader pool of skills that can move the industry forward,” as said by Tim
Springett, ECSA's spokesperson to their Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee. “Shipping
companies are looking into alternative ways of working, influenced by digitalisation and
automation. These present an opportunity to attract more women into our industry.”
How is IMO helping women in the maritime community?
IMO supports gender equality and the empowerment of women through gender specific
fellowships; by facilitating access to high-level technical training for women in the maritime
sector in developing countries; by creating the environment in which women are identified and
selected for career development opportunities in maritime administrations, ports and maritime
training institutes; and by facilitating the establishment of professional women in maritime
associations, particularly in developing countries.
WISTA (Women International Shipping & Trading Association)
One of the organisations that is actively working to address this issue is WISTA ( Women's
International Shipping and Trading Association), an international networking organisation whose
mission is to attract and support women, at the management level, in the maritime, trading and
logistics sectors. WISTA is growing and currently has worldwide over 3000 members in 45
Country WISTA organisations. WISTA UK the founding country is celecbrating its 45 th
Anniversary this year.
WISTA was granted consultative status with IMO in 2018. Consultative status gives WISTA the
opportunity to promote diversity, inclusion and women's empowerment. WISTA can now
formally contribute to the discussion for increasing capacity in the maritime industry, a critical
component of which is promoting women in the industry, both shoreside and shipboard, and
also showcasing the varied technical skills and leadership that women can and do bring to the
So women do have a place in the modern maritime world and at levels unheard of even
30 years ago and at GMCG we are keen to be part of this movement to bring about a
diverse workforce both at sea and ashore.