Empowering Women in the Maritime Community
I recently asked some friends and former colleagues if they knew on which date World Maritime Day would be celebrated this year.
It came as no surprise to learn that not only did they not know when the occasion would be marked, but that they had never actually heard of such a day. I have to admit that until a few weeks ago, when I came across the information accidentally, I was in exactly the same boat as them.
What did come as a surprise was that it has been marked annually since 1978. That is when the United Nations (UN), via the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) – formerly the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation, (IMCO), until 1982 – created World Maritime Day to celebrate the international maritime industry’s contribution towards the world’s economy, especially in shipping. It is celebrated in many countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada and the United States. The event’s date varies by year and country but is always during the last week of September, with the UK holding its celebration this year on Thursday 26th September. Special events and activities ranging from symposiums to luncheons, maritime museum visits and school lessons, will be held throughout the country to raise awareness of the significance of the maritime industry and its importance in world trade. The first date marked the entry into force of IMO’s Conventions in 1958. This followed an international conference held in Geneva in 1948 which formally adopted a convention establishing the IMO, a specialised UN agency to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping. At the time of the first event, the organisation had 21 member states. It now has 174 member states, and 3 associated members. They represent virtually all the nations worldwide which have an interest in maritime affairs, including those involved in the shipping industry, and coastal states with an interest in protecting their maritime environment.
On each annual occasion there is a theme linked to the special day, and this year it is:
‘Empowering Women in the Maritime Community’.
In a message from Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of IMO, he states...
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 maledominated industry and the same applies to many of the associated jobs and professions in the maritime community. But that is changing; and there are many reasons why. Gender equality has been recognised as one of the key platforms on which people can build a sustainable future. It is one of 17 goals that underpin the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda, which countries all over the world have pledged to implement. The maritime community itself is missing out on a huge talent pool if it fails to properly empower women in the workplace. Gender-diverse teams are more productive than male dominated teams and gender-diverse workplaces promote better job satisfaction, employee engagement and retention. Having more women in the workplace is beneficial for organisations as a whole, for men and for women.
In the latter part of my career in particular, I had the immense privilege of working with many female colleagues, both ashore and afloat, so I was somewhat taken aback to learn that women currently represent just two per cent of the world’s 1.2 million seafarers. Of those, 94 per cent are working in the cruise industry, with several occupying high-ranking positions in some of the world’s most famous companies, many of whom have been featured in this magazine. Such achievements are undoubtedly raising the profile of the industry as being a rewarding and fulfilling career path for women to follow.
Since time immemorial, the majority of ships have carried female names and in any event are generally referred to as ‘she’. With such initiatives as this year’s theme and coupled with those individuals who have already achieved so much success within the industry, I am sure that in the future, women will deservedly continue to fill many more of the important ranks and roles stipulated on the perhaps now – not so aptly named – ‘Safe Manning Certificate’ of those ships.
PETER CORRIN, EDITOR