A to do list for gender equality
In the path towards gender equality the industry needs to start hiring leaders not “managers,” make gender sensitization training mandatory, create visibility of careers within shipping in schools and draft clear policies and guidelines which can be effectively implemented
It’s not often we get to celebrate the launch of a new day, especially so in the maritime industry and a day of such great significance in its’ journey to a sustainable future. The International Women in Maritime Day has been resolved by the International Maritime Organization, to be celebrated annually on the 18th of May every year and while the day as such cannot make a difference, the discussions facilitated around it most certainly can.
On the inaugural launch of the day, Oceans Arena Stage brought together 6 key industry leaders, each with very diverse backgrounds and experiences to compile “A to-do list for gender equality,” with focus on the maritime sector. H.E Eng. Hessa Al Malek, Advisor to the Minister for Maritime Transport Affairs, Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure UAE, Guy Platten, Secretary General, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Sanjam Gupta, Maritime SheEo Founder and Director of Sitara Shipping, Capt. Radhika Menon, sailing Master with Synergy Ship Management and Co-Founder of the International Women Seafarers Foundation, Sue Terpilowski, Diversity & Inclusion Expert and Managing Director of Image Line Communication and Sofia Konstantopoulou, Founder of Greek International Women’s Awards (GIWA) and Global Head, Marketing & Events, at the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA), engaged in a discussion facilitated by Gina Panayiotou, Founder & CEO of Oceans Arena, an ESG Consultancy, sharing their input on why the numbers of women in the industry, in boards and on board remain low, why businesses need to care and jointly assembled a list of actionable points which will allow the forthcoming annual celebrations of this day, to showcase tangible results rather than talks around the issue.
In the keynote address H.E Eng. Hessa Al Malek stressed the need to create awareness in order to inspire. Followed by Guy Platter who expressed how the numbers are shockingly low and as a father of a female seafarer himself, wishes that “horror stories” from life on board for females end today, while he also added that 18 is too late for both females and males to become aware of career prospects in shipping. Echoed by Capt. Radhika Menon who added the importance of providing extensive guidance and support to women on what a seafaring career entails and how women can navigate the challenges, the need for mandatory gender sensitization training, as well as the need to ensure job security from ship to shore and back. Sofia Konstantopoulou, highlighted the need to stop hiring manages and start hiring leaders, which as is restricts the opportunity offering for women, while also explaining that a shift of mindset takes decades, men have been “Kings” of the ocean for centuries and now we are asking them to share their kingdom, it takes time and training so they can see the need and value in doing so. Sue Terpilowski emphasized on the need to empower DPA’s and added that the STCW needs to include mandatory training on the matter, this is the “ideal opportunity to reset” she explains. While Sanjam Gupta stated that, its’ not just “the good thing to do,” there is a business case for gender equality in boards, yet we need to be creating more female leaders and more role models so any little girl out there can be able to say: I want to be a Captain, a CEO an engineer etc. and to do this we need to stop working in silos.
Drawing conclusions on what would go on a wish list to create a more gender diverse and inclusive maritime industry, the outcome was that, while we are still scratching the surface, this to-do list marks a clear direction. We need to be training people, have men as allies, hire for skill allowing more women to rise leaders as subsequently role models, explain the value of ESG, raise awareness early on of not only the existence of careers at sea but of the numerous options available, what it entails and what a career projection in this sector looks like and this has to be a global initiative, with policies and procedures which do not allow scope failure. As we start actioning the tasks of this list one by one and invest in the men, women and younger generation of our industry, we will see a completely different business generation rising.
Let’s use this day to reflect on our duty and take action, so next year on the 18th of May we can celebrate with a tangible results list.
Replay available on the Oceans Arena Stage YouTube Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EddfT9E3bdA