I came across this while browsing the marine sites:
31 July 2006 -
The truth is that shipping was indeed once a man’s world, but as an industry it is no different from many others in this respect, and along with society itself, is becoming much more inclusive. And if gatherings of shipping people seem to remain overwhelmingly male, it is worth considering the age of those gathered. As age is reduced, the proportion of women who will be present in the workplace is increased. And in this, shipping is merely typical of any modern industry.
It is fair to note that women seafarers remain in a distinct minority, although here too numbers of women are increasing as they find the sea career and modern, sophisticated ships, interesting. The sea itself, travel and considerable responsibilities at a young age attract modern women, just as they do men, while the job is less physical and arguably cleaner than it was in an earlier age. Some women have advanced to senior ranks, although children and families tend to persuade them ashore, just like their male counterparts. It is significant to note than ferry companies are considered to be “family friendly”, and increasingly employ women, while deep sea operations naturally tend to be less attractive to women who have family responsibilities.
But it is in the shore side of shipping that women are increasingly making an impact, with any intelligently managed company unwilling to deny itself the benefits of recruiting from 50% of the population. In any forward-thinking company, policies of equal opportunities have long opened the doors to women, who see their career opportunities expanding throughout the industry. In this they are assisted by WISTA, (Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association) which is a useful networking organisation with branches in most international shipping centres.
If there is still a relatively small number of women in shipping compared to some industries, it is perhaps because shipping and indeed transport has not been sufficiently “sold” to girls as an attractive career option. Occupations tend to be branded as more suitable for one sex than the other, and maritime transport, traditionally run by men, has remained below the horizons of those who advise girls on their career options.
So it is worth considering how the industry can more effectively reach bright young women looking for a rewarding and interesting career, very different to those stereotypical women’s jobs. Shipping has a great deal going for it in terms of its growth potential. It is an essential, worthwhile industry, international in scope and nature, its professional qualifications multi-national, while it is a “people” industry, to which the qualities of women are admirably suited.
More senior women role models are however needed, throughout the industry, to demonstrate that there are no “glass ceilings” and make women think more about maritime industry opportunities, in the wonderful world of international shipping.