Be bold for change – how to empower women in the maritime community
Remove structural barriers, build good networks and support quality education to ensure no woman, no girl is left behind in the maritime sector – where women remain significantly under-represented. These were some of the themes reiterated by maritime leaders speaking on the first day of the third World Maritime University (WMU) International Women’s Conference, Empowering Women in the Maritime Community, Malmö, Sweden (4-5 April), reflecting this year’s World Maritime Day theme.
Opening the conference, WMU President Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry called on the whole maritime sector to “be bold for change” in order to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 5 on gender equality. “We need to ensure a quality education is made available to everyone, including and empowering women and girls. No one should be left behind,” she said.
“To make progress we need bold and innovative initiatives to ensure we progress gender diversity,” said Helen Buni, focal point for IMO’s Women in Maritime Programme, which supports women to access maritime training and other opportunities, including through gender-specific fellowships for high-level technical training. Through this programme, IMO has facilitated the establishment of seven women in maritime associations across the globe to provide networking, mentorship and other opportunities.
Heike Deggim, Director of IMO’s Maritime Safety Division said while there had been some progress in female representation at IMO meetings amongst national delegations, the maritime industry needed more women, particularly in leadership roles. “There are infinite possibilities for a more fair and equitable workplace that takes advantage of the strengths that both genders bring to management and leadership,” Ms Deggim said. ”IMO recognizes that the shipping industry must reach out to every sector of the community if it is to attract the very best people to pursue a maritime career. Employing and empowering more women will go a long way to solving the challenges faced by the maritime industry, especially the predicted shortage of skilled seafarers, in particular officers.”
In a video message to the conference, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, “The maritime world needs all hands on deck, both male and female, to continue to carry the world’s goods in a clean safe and efficient manner.”