Women have a significant role to play in the development of the maritime sector in the Caribbean region but in order to survive and thrive they need access to professional training and education systems backed by internationally recognised and enforced employment standards.
This was the message two leading Caribbean shipping industry executives delivered to the ‘Maritime Women: Global Leadership 2nd International Conference’ being held by the World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmo, Sweden this week (March 31 to April 1).
Claudia Grant, Deputy Director General of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, and Vivette Grant, Deputy Executive Director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute, outlined the findings of a survey which examined the existence of gender bias in the maritime sector and its effects on women’s employment, promotion, career mobility and pay inequality.
More than 50% of the women taking part in the survey, which was conducted among women who have risen to senior leadership positions in various sectors of the Caribbean maritime industry, indicated they had experienced gender bias in their career, with many saying it had affected their pay levels or career mobility.
The two Jamaican speakers told delegates that the Caribbean countries’ governments have recognised the importance of the empowerment of women as being an essential tool in reducing poverty levels in the region. Access to education and training are key to this empowerment and the study highlighted the benefits of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Women in Development (WID) programme which has provided Caribbean women with access to the skills necessary to equip them to enter the specialised and male-dominated maritime industry.
They advised the conference that 89% of beneficiaries of the IMO WID programme are now employed in senior management positions within the maritime sector but warned: “the job is not yet complete”.
They called for ongoing training and education opportunities to enable professional women to improve their qualifications, update their industry knowledge and “survive in this sector”. They also recommended establishment of an international code and minimum standards for the employment and empowerment of women in the maritime sector, backed by “appropriate control actions to ensure compliance”. In addition they championed the instigation of a professional association for maritime women to enable greater information sharing, networking, support and mentoring.
Mrs Claudia Grant said: “Women have an important contribution to make to the global economy and within the international maritime sector and we must ensure that we create the right global framework to ensure we are able to recruit, train and retain excellent female employees in the global shipping industry.”
The WMU conference considered how gender differences and unfair practices in professional maritime employment can be addressed by all the stakeholders, at international and national level, working to promote employment opportunities and to strengthen women’s roles once they are recruited. The conference also showcased the global achievements of the women alumni of WMU across the entire spectrum of maritime activity. Both Mrs C Grant and Mrs V Grant are graduates of WMU.