Last week I joined a panel to discuss Women in Maritime. Over the last few years I have participated in a number of similar discussions and felt privileged to have been invited to do so, but I have decided to make my final comments on this issue in this blog.
As of today – 26 October 2021 – this is where I believe the industry stands with regard to promoting and enabling the careers of women. I want to touch on a couple of frequently deliberated topics that pop up in these webinars:
[If you happen to be reading this blog post from some date far in the future –
I do hope that more change has occurred and that the actual content of this post is redundant.
Is the maritime industry a male-dominated industry?
Yes it is.
Is gender transformation being actively pursued?
Yes it is, but it needs to be realistically addressed.
Is it currently more difficult for women than men to advance in the maritime industry?
The industry consists of so many sectors and sub-sectors that some of these remain more challenging for women than for men. One is likely to find it more challenging in the offshore environment as a woman for a number of reasons that are currently being addressed within the industry.
One also only has to look at the composition of many multi-national companies’ executives and boards to understand that women are not being considered for these positions – which makes people assume that a female here and there is simply a token appointment even if she is not.
Some significant progress has, however, been made in the government and parastatal space where the increase in women representation over the last few years is self-evident. International and national industry associations are also playing an important role in identifying capable women leaders.
What can women contribute to the industry?
Women are able to contribute in the same way men are able to contribute. Women can arrive at a place of work and, provided that they have had access to the same opportunities and training, can do exactly what men can do at that place of work – whatever that place of work represents across the maritime sectors.
How can men ensure that they are allies in the workplace?
Men simply need to be decent human beings in the same way that women need to be decent human beings in any workplace. A good start for some men, however, is to drop the micro-aggressions that suggest that you have made the assumption that your female work colleague may not know as much as you or may have a different work ethic to you simply because she is a woman before she is able to disprove or prove this.
Also – drop the male bravado. We do not need “locker room talk” – not even in the locker room contrary to what Trump may have permitted many to believe.
Oh – and get a little more creative than industry golf days or soccer tournaments to foster community. Seriously, both of these sports have traditionally concentrated on attracting men; and women remain under-represented. It is possible to literally count the number of lady golfers at these networking/fundraising days on one hand. And I really do not think it remains the task of women to consider playing golf, simply because this was a networking activity chosen by men in the distant past.
What advice would you give to young women entering/rising in the industry?
Get on with it. Show up and speak up. Do not see yourself as a token employee, but rather as a valuable asset that your company obviously saw potential in when they hired you. Prove them right. Never stop learning and seek mentors as well as collaborators. And when you inevitably succeed – gaze down the talent pipeline and act as a mentor and collaborator with the next generation coming up behind you.
What is the role of women leaders in the maritime industry?
The role of women leaders is, and will always be, the same as the role of male leaders:
- To grow the industry sustainably.
- To provide space for the next generation of men and women to gain skills, experience and expertise.
- To mentor, provide opportunities and construct succession plans to ensure sustainability.
- To foster accountability and collaboration.
- To retire – satisfied in the knowledge that the industry is in good hands.
What should the future employment landscape of the maritime industry look like?
Assuming that the industry has done the work to promote awareness across a diversity of platforms and geographic areas – the ideal future hiring ethos should be based purely on merit. No person wants to be employed as the token anything (gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation).
Sadly we are not there yet – and equally sadly, the notion of quotas still needs to be considered as some companies resist acknowledging the benefits of voluntarily embracing diversity in the interest of a homogenous company culture.
I am sure that there is more to be said, but I do hope that we can step beyond these conversations and simply get on with what needs to be done. There are also some excellent women-orientated industry organisations and associations that understand that this is not simply a topic that needs to be addressed in isolation of our male colleagues. They are – and will continue to – address these issues until the time such discussions become superfluous.