Companies across the globe are celebrating women’s contribution to the maritime industry, as World Maritime Day kicks off today with ‘Empowering Women in the Maritime Community’ as its main theme.
In honour of the event – which comes shortly after the London International Shipping Week – several organisations are acknowledging women’s contribution to the sector through a number of initiatives also aimed at bridging the gap of gender inequality within the industry.
Among them, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a non-governmental international network, is bidding to break gender barriers through its global network of maritime decision-makers.
In a statement released ahead of World Maritime Day, the ISO highlighted its ongoing efforts in encouraging women to pursue more senior positions. It also said that women are in charge of several sub-committees and working groups within its technical committee, the ISO/TC 8 Ships and marine technology.
Commenting on the importance of women in shipping, Jing Wang, committee manager of ISO/TC 8, said: “The reputation of the industry is that it is male-dominated, but, in fact, women are present in many areas, contributing their own unique strengths. They also help to make the industry somewhat warmer, adding their own touch and making it… well… complete.”
Wang added that it is an honour for her “to be involved in a sector that is so far-reaching and global.”
This year’s theme for World Maritime Day comes at a time when promoting gender balance is becoming a key priority within the sector.
Given that female seafarers constitute only 2% of the total number of seafarers worldwide, the lack of diversity created a need for the shipping community to bridge this gender gap.
As a result, at the 120th session of its Council meeting in July 2019, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) chose ‘Empowering Women in the Maritime Community’ as the World Maritime Day theme for 2019, in line with the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
IMO’s secretary-general, Kitack Lim motivated the choice by saying: “Empowering women isn’t just an idea or a concept. It is a necessity that requires strong, positive action to address deep-seated structural, institutional and cultural barriers.
“Shipping has always been a male-dominated industry and the same applies to many of the associated jobs and professions in the maritime community.”
As the UN said in a statement, this year’s theme is also meant to address the rampant inequality in the sector. “It also allows stakeholders the opportunity to work towards achieving the SDGs,” the statement reads, “to foster an environment in which women are identified and selected for career development opportunities in maritime administrations, ports and maritime training institutes and to encourage more conversation for gender equality in the maritime space.”
Industry initiatives to boost diversity
In August this year, Maritime UK partnered with the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) to launch ‘Maritime and Me’, a campaign aimed to honour women in maritime and encourage them to join the sector.
During the International Shipping Week, the UK Government further announced that it will set aside £730,000 to boost maritime careers with the aim of increasing diversity. The funds will also be used to encourage female students to look at shipping as a career option by pairing them with women working in the industry.
Ahead of World Maritime Day, the south east Australia Branch of the Nautical Institute’s Women in Maritime division recently launched a social media ‘Woman a Day’ campaign on where every day this year, the institute will feature short profiles of female maritime staff.
In addition, the IMO’s Women in Maritime gender equality and capacity-building programme currently encourages its member States to train women in their maritime institutes and help them reach the level of competence demanded by the maritime industry.
The importance of women in maritime was also one of the key topics discussed at this year’s London International Shipping Week.