June 25th is the annual IMO International Day of the Seafarer, with a theme this year of “#IAmOnBoard with gender equality” driving the agenda. Including women into the maritime industry is important on a variety of levels—but most especially as we are missing out on more than 50% of the world’s talent pool.
Traditional barriers to including women in the industry are in the past, such as only jobs requiring manual labor and inaccessibility to maritime education ranking near the top. Today’s progress in shipping towards greater automation, and the admission of women into maritime academies for more than 40 years should certainly result in a higher attraction and retention performance, no?
There are certainly examples of women who are entering and rising to the top. Carnival Cruises, International Seaways, Princess Cruises, Foremost Group and Celebrity Cruises all boast women as Presidents or CEOs, the new Virgin Cruises has the first female Captain from Canada for its maiden ship. These are important milestones, but only the beginning. There are also great examples of women in the maritime academy, with the United States Coast Guard Academy fielding a class that is 38% diverse.
Retaining women in the workplace, or in the Coast Guard, is another matter. A recent RAND corporation report revealed that retention of women in the service is much lower than for men. They are looking at ways to improve this loss.
But what can we do as industry to attract and retain women? How are we creating an environment where women feel welcome and safe? This is an industry-wide issue that requires an industry-wide effort. AND, you might be more profitable too!