As I prepare to put my feet up for Women’s Day tomorrow and scroll through the many newsfeeds I follow on social networks, I am suddenly reminded that the “thing to do” in media is to couple content planning to calendar events such as this. So let’s take a moment to reflect on the feminine demographic in the maritime industry.
When I started reporting on the industry way back in the mid 1990’s there were not many ladies at sea and few holding positions of any real maritime significance ashore. I remember visiting a Captain on his ship and being subjected to a bout of misplaced chivalry as he opened the doors while I had to squeeze passed his sizeable belly in the narrow passages to enter first. I remember interviewing a Managing Director of a reputable maritime company and being told at the end of an hour: “I’m sorry I did not get your name – I was too busy looking at your breasts”. And I remember meeting with a potential freelance writer for the magazine, who was himself an old salt, and him casually remarking “I’ve never worked with anyone like you before” as he gave me a very obvious once over.
Thankfully things have changed considerably since then.
The maritime industry, however, was not unique in its chauvinistic behaviour and now, as it did then, simply continues to be a microcosm of life ashore. Certainly there has been a shift towards attracting women into seafaring positions – similar to most professions “traditionally” associated with male dominance, but I struggle to see a real demographic gender shift at board level of the majority of maritime companies.
We’re happy to send our girls to sea; we’ll even claim bragging rights when a handful of them move up the seafaring ranks – but we are yet to see real progress within top management structures.
Now, I am the first to say that women should not be appointed to simply tick a box on some score card somewhere, but surely there are ladies of significance ready to step into these positions within our industry?
Oh – and the next time you need to have a lady break a bottle of bubbly over the hull of your newbuild, don’t simply invite the wife of some important man – look for that woman of significance in the industry and give her the honour. Because there are some truly innovative, smart, courageous, talented and forward thinking women at work in this industry.
Happy Women’s Day to all in the maritime industry – whether ashore or at sea!