You are here

Women in maritime: How to encourage participation

Women in maritime: How to encourage participation

This is a story of what a woman in maritime can do; a pathway towards overtaking the difficult conditions navigating the male-dominated maritime industry. Indeed, most operators’ attitudes towards the employment of women in the shipping sector are biased and discouraging - The question is why? - considering that equality is a human right and is economically efficient as well! In almost every industry, if not at all, efforts have been made to shift from the unequal burden of cooking, cleaning, child care to equal access to education and employment. However, when it comes to shipping industry the challenges multiply.

Gender equality is more than equal representation, it is strongly tied to women's rights, and often requires policy changes. Issues commonly associated with notions of women's rights include: the right to bodily integrity and autonomy; to be free from sexual violence; to vote; to hold public office; to enter into legal contracts; to have equal rights in family law; to work; to fair wages or equal pay; to have reproductive rights; to own property; to education.

If we want our society to flourish, we need to engage all of its talents, all of its human resources, at all levels.

Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport

Studies have shown that women have excellent opportunities today to pursue careers in maritime law, shipping business and administrations than was the case 30 years ago!

More and more organisations are showing interest to address and provide solutions to the following questions through mentoring, coaching and/or training:

Are you hoping to increase women seafarers motivation and engagement?
Do you want to improve women seafarers performance?
Are you interested in increasing the number of women in leadership roles and the number of women who should be in leadership roles based on demographics, ability and interest?

The importance of mentoring

Mentoring, Coaching or Counselling? Indeed, you need all of them. First and foremost, mentoring tends to be voluntary on both sides. The mentor, wishes to pass on some of what they’ve learned to someone else who will benefit from their experience. There are many organizations running formal mentoring programms; IMO has chosen to tackle the gender quality issue through its Integration of Women in the Maritime Sector (IWMS) programme and ILO is one of the organizations, who working along with IMO, has done important efforts towards strengthening women in maritime industry.

WISTA International, one of the broadest and most diverse networks of professionals in shipping, has been always participating in initiatives and programs that promote inclusion, gender equality, gender diversity, and workplace cultural change; the association recently announced that appointed Diversity Committee to focus on practical solutions to increase gender diversity in the maritime industry. Less formal mentoring relationships can also work well. Other associations supporting seafarer’s rights including gender equality are: International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), Maritime UK, Sailor’s Society etc.

The difference between mentoring and coaching

As described above mentoring is relationship oriented while coaching is task oriented. When it comes to coaching, there is always an answer to a problem. Specifically, the coach is helping individuals to solve their problem, to improve their performance, to learn. Unlikely to mentoring which usually focuses on career development in the future, coaching answers the question how and focuses on the present time. The main purpose is to improve skills by raising competence. By solving problems that may create obstacles, such as the fear of harassment on board, coaching may increase women motivation, engagement in shipping, and improve retention.

The need for equal training for men and women

Although coaching is one of the essential leadership styles, it is not conducted by an expert. At the other end of the spectrum, training does involve a teacher who imparts knowledge to the trainees. Both men and women have to receive adequate training in order to be fully aware of the regulations and meet the needs of the maritime industry. As of now, there is broad range of courses and training programs, equal for both men and women seafarers, regarding onboard and onshore positions.

Particularly, for maritime training institutes worldwide, IMO has also developed a series of model courses which provide suggested syllabi, course timetables and learning objectives to assist instructors develop training programmes to meet the STCW Convention standards for seafarers regardless of gender. Moreover part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls (SDG5) is the a new Leadership in the Public Sector course being developed by the training arm of the UN system – the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

Nicole Langosch, the first woman in the position of captain in the AIDA fleet

“It makes me proud to work in a company that gives targeted support to young women in their careers and enables me to pursue my dream job, looking forward to my new role as captain aboard AIDAsol, and aware of the great responsibility.”

Nicole Langosch, the first woman in the position of captain in the AIDA fleet

Certainly, there are many other ways which societies and economies might adapt to the flow of changes that are re-balancing roles in society. One thing is sure, shipping globally does not lack relative organizations and/or associations, influencers, teachers, mentors and coaches to help tackle the problem, it lacks action; it may lack more MEN championing women’s rights as well!

Action Taken

Be yourself
Be passionate
Think positively
Not allow anybody tell you that you cannot do something
Accept people who tell you how to do something
Always challenge yourself

I have never had any specific challenges because I am a woman; thus, I am embracing it and working to turn it from a negative image into a positive one.
Karin Orsel, President of WISTA