Posted on February 16, 2018 by Ashleigh Cowie


womenCommentary piece by Ashleigh Cowie, Head of Marketing and Communications, ARX Maritime

Decades behind other industries, but as they say, it’s better late than never. The maritime industry is finally admitting the need to address the gender imbalance. Gone are the days where it’s okay for certain sectors to claim to be dominated by one gender, and as a female who has worked with the military, and who now works in the maritime world, it’s refreshing to see the shipping sector finally catch up.

To overlook more than 50% of the world’s population does nothing but an injustice to the industry, potentially missing out on some of the highest calibre employees because of the fact they wear a skirt—it goes without saying that men could be wearing the skirts too, but you get the gist of the sentiment.

There are 1.25 million seafarers in the world… less than 2% are female.

The directors at ARX Maritime have always pushed for women to be a major part of their workforce—their first senior employee was the former Head of Supply Chain at Ikea, and coincidentally is a woman. This recognition of female talent has continued as the company developed. As recently as last month they took on a significant number of females—and not because of gender, but because, yes you guessed it, they were the best man/woman for the job. Unfortunately not all maritime companies are as open-minded when it comes to seeing women as an asset to their more often than not locker room ‘esque’ workplace.

British Marine members are often coming up with ways to overcome skills shortages in the industry, so it seems ludicrous that more isn’t being done to encourage women to be a part of the shipping sector.

This gap is now being recognised by governing bodies, who have catalysed a huge push across the maritime sector to increase diversity, recognise gender balanced workforces and retain more women in senior roles. Companies like Maritime UK have gone as far as creating a Women in Maritime Taskforce, to actively increase the number of women in the industry.

Chairwoman of the taskforce, Sue Terpilowski OBE said:

“This has become something I am really passionate about.”

But she’s not the only female challenging the imbalance from within the industry. UK Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani MP, is only the second woman to hold the UK Department for Transport portfolio for the country’s maritime sector. She acknowledges the government’s need to push the industry to rectify the imbalance, saying:

“In the autumn, the government challenged maritime leaders, businesses and colleges to find ways of increasing the number of women in the sector.”

“There is a fantastic wealth and breadth of career opportunities in maritime, and I am determined to see more women accessing these.”

Marthe Lamp Sandvik is COO of Norwegian and international shipbroker Lorentzen & Stemoco. For her increasing women in the industry is increasing the level of skill:

 “A poor talent pool would be our number one barrier to the future, and we need talented people from all backgrounds and genders to be the next generation tasked with moving us forward.”

The need to create a gender balance within the sector should be as important to those at the top as it is to create equal opportunities for people of all races, class and background. As a society we are all quickly realising that these factors have very little impact on the individual’s ability to succeed in a given job role. With this being recognised in schools, and more girls being encouraged to study stem subjects, it is inevitable that gender prejudice will have significantly reduced for the younger generations. But until those children grow up to work within and run the maritime world, it’s important to do what we can for the industry as it currently exists.

As a female working in this sector, you get used to being the only female, or one of few females at an event. At first you may need to stand firm, and accept a couple of uncomfortable glances, as the men realise a woman has crashed their lads trip away, but they very quickly realise there are many advantages to having a female around. And as the perception of shipping as a male-only environment changes, the number of women in workshops, meetings and at maritime events is ever growing. As long as this positive change continues, then it won’t be long before it’s “the norm” to have a maritime company made up of 50% females.


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Posted in Operations

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