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Where Do Women In Shipping Stand?

The very first “Women in Shipping Summit” took place in September, during the London International Shipping Week. Although it was explicitly for women, men were also welcome to participate in the event.

Speakers and delegates traveled to England from countries such as Greece, the USA, South Africa, Cyprus, the Philippines and many more to attend the Summit and discuss the matters that women in the maritime industry face.

The focus was not only on discussing their obstacles but more importantly, on how they can be solved.

Here are the main topics that were analysed during this 2-day Summit:

There was a great interest in diversity and inclusion: More particularly, how we can ensure that more women reach leadership positions within the industry. We all concluded that women have to receive more mentoring, coaching and sponsorship from both women and men.

Attracting and retaining female talents: although the number of women who study shipping has increased, not all of them stay in the industry long enough to reach a higher position. After various discussions and presentations, the conclusion was that there needs to be more effort from employers to retain their female staff and support them along the way. Open communication, as to where these women employees see themselves in the future and how they can achieve it within their company, is a crucial factor to a successful partnership.

Creating working environments that set up women for success: raising awareness of unconscious gender biases amongst the employees is a good start for tackling them. Continuous education, provided by trainings and workshops, will ensure that all employees learn about the factors that can unite them as a team and see them as complementing strengths, rather than weaknesses.

Raising awareness of a seafarer’s life and career: it was very obvious that more women work ashore than onboard vessels. The majority of female seafarers work in cruise ships and ferries. The discussions we held showed that the main reason was that young girls were not aware that a seafarer’s career was even an option for them. Tackling this issue meant that there should be more focused marketing of this choice of career, starting with primary and secondary schools. Making them aware of another possibility at such young age means that there are more chances of them choosing this career in the future.

Another matter that I wanted to speak about during my presentation on “Developing women who persist and succeed” was how self-perception affects the way women show up.

Most of the women, if not all, were there because they wanted to achieve more and they wanted to learn how. While external forces, such as the ones already mentioned, can affect our career trajectory, there are also internal factors that we need to take into consideration.

After working and speaking with numerous talented women in the shipping industry, I have no doubt that there is a wealth of knowledge and qualifications. Part of it is because women tend to doubt themselves more than men (the infamous imposter syndrome) and in the efforts to justify our worthiness, we tend to jump from one qualification to another, until we feel ready enough to claim our space.

Unfortunately, even when we have various degrees and many years of experience, we still doubt ourselves. The result of this behaviour is that we stay away from challenges. We don’t take up opportunities, until we feel that we tick all the requirements. The same applies for job applications: if we aren’t sure how to go some of the tasks in the job description, we decide to wait a little bit more.

As 2019 has undoubtedly been the year of women in maritime, with so many initiatives taking place within the industry to raise the profiles and the achievements of women, there is also a great opportunity for us to take individual ownership.

By recognising our value and by owning our achievements, we start shifting our self-doubt to self-belief. The way to success is not to wait until you’re ready to do everything perfectly. The way to success is to jump for opportunities that stretch and challenge you. Having a growth mindset comes handy in these situations: believing that every skill is learnable and that you have the capacity to figure things out along the way.

We should start focusing on our strengths and believing in ourselves. We should take action towards our goals and take advantage of all these initiatives whose goal is to support us. A proactive approach to the problem also means that we don’t work hard and wait for others to notice us; it means that we’re vocal about our ambitions, so the decision-makers are also able to provide us with the right opportunities.
Source: Kate Bollanou, Executive & Leadership Coach, WomanSpeak Circle Leader

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