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Diversity in the shipping industry

Today is International Women’s Day and I would like to take the chance to reflect a little on diversity in the shipping industry. Diversity is not just about having more women on our teams, but about having an inclusive culture where everyone feels welcome, is treated with respect, receives equal pay for equal work and is given equal opportunities. From a company point of view, this is not only about being a good citizen; diversity is a necessity if we want to succeed in the challenges we have in front of us.

With diversity comes the ability to consider several aspects of any problem or challenge, and I believe that no company in any industry can afford the risk of missing out on key elements in this age of rapid change and increasing uncertainties.

In the next decades, the shipping industry will likely see more change than it has in the last hundred years, with innovation around new propulsion technology and the use of digital solutions. And Höegh Autoliners is one of the key suppliers to the world’s largest industry – the car manufacturing industry, where the changes ahead will be just as profound. Being in the middle of these changes should be extremely inspiring, as we will have to identify and adapt to all of them in the years ahead. Our business model needs constant development, and we need the best talent to ensure that we understand the changes ahead. And with changes comes opportunities.
Shipping needs to step up the game

I am very excited with the thought that we will be part of shaping shipping history! However, I am also worried that our industry has not been good enough to market all the opportunities we can offer talented people, and that we have not done enough to attract a diverse workforce. If shipping does not step up the game, other industries will attract the talent we need and our industry will not succeed to innovate and transform at the speed we need.

For an industry that has a tradition to name its hard assets by female names, and where every vessel still has a Godmother, we must admit shipping has been slow at embracing gender equality. Still today, many shipping companies do not allow women employment on board their vessels and the percentage of female executives within our industry is as low as 10 percent globally.

Zero tolerance for discrimination

With that in mind, I am proud to lead a company with zero tolerance for discrimination. Today, close to 42 per cent of Höegh Autoliners’ global shore based staff among our 20 locations are women and 40 per cent of the current Executive team. In our global team, there are 32 nationalities. We also have 31 female seafarers at the time of writing, and the number is growing. We hope to see our first female Captain in a not too distant future.

We still have a way to go and we continuously work with our recruitment processes and our leadership pipeline, but the most important to me is that we have a well-founded culture of acceptance and inclusion in Höegh. I am determined that our company should be an employer of choice for the best talent, no matter their gender, race, religion, sexual preferences, physical disabilities or age.

Creating an efficient workplace for all stages of life

One of the requirements often put forward by women who are taking on larger roles is the need for flexibility. With current technological developments, it is becoming easier to make our workplaces suitable for different stages in the life cycle. Today, we are not bound to sit in the office to do our work, we can work from lap tops, tablets and mobile phones from any corner of the world. However, working from home or working flexible hours is not only a matter of technology – it is a matter of culture and acceptance.

One of the key features of a global industry is adapting to working across time zones. Although sometimes challenging, it also actually gives the opportunity for a lot of flexibility in how we use our time – at least some of the time. And we know that flexibility is an important feature of the modern working life. We, the leaders, must set the tone and even encourage people to go home and spend time with the family, to join that football practice with the children or visit an elderly relative. If needed, it is always possible to log on in the evening or come in early another day. Because when our employees have a good life outside of work, they are also much more likely to perform at their best at work.

Being global comes with responsibilities

We, who work in shipping, are proud of our industry. It is the world’s second oldest industry and the first global business. Being present globally also comes with responsibilities. We can open opportunities for people across the world, like few other industries can. Giving employees the opportunity to live and work in a different culture, to get to know colleagues and friends from many corners of the world constitute REAL international experience. In a world that’s becoming more connected having this kind of experience rather than just from a computer screen is very valuable, and one of the big attractions of our industry. Let’s ensure we keep that entrance door open for all talented people and that we embrace our differences.

Because diversity is good for business.
– Ivar Myklebust, CEO of Höegh Autoliners
Source: Höegh Autoliners

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