Not only do men need to talk about women more, they need to talk to them, listen more and act more on building diversity. That will build a better industry for their sons and daughters too
Men need to talk about women more. They need to be a stronger part of the discussion about ensuring that around the world the other half of the population, who want to come into the maritime sector, either ashore or at sea, can do so.
It is a no brainer, but it is something that gets stuck between the pontification of good intentions and a reality that creates change.
Some men, have no problem talking about women behind their back. But this is not about bar, or locker room, talk. This is about recognition of an industry need and an obvious solution. It is about a modern maturity in how we talk and then how we do more than talk, how we act. I am a man and know full well how I sometimes talked and thought in my late teenage years in the 1980’s. I now have (near) teenage daughters and a son so am acutely aware of the difference between the young me and the more mature version.
On May 18th it is International Women in Maritime Day. It’s the second one. It is separate to international women day which was in March. This day is specific to encouraging more women to come into the maritime sectors, to stay in them, and to thrive, taking leadership roles when their competence and experience is suitable (just as we expect with men).
One can already see progress and this is perhaps best exemplified in the three female nominations of the seven to become the next IMO secretary general. But the votes still need to come in (that’s in June) and one does not know if the voting will still take a more traditional line, though IMO Council voting can be highly political and subject to a lot of back-scratching.
Mariana Noceti is the principle programme assistant within the IMO and responsible for coordinating activities. Talking on Fathom World’s Aronnax Podcast she said that quite often men don’t see the challenges that some women face that are gender specific, such as being on a panel full of men, being in a meeting with only men and one women, and even being in job interviews where the interview is only with men.
Women in maritime day didn’t start with developed countries, ones where women have more say and representation in general, but in the developing countries.
“It was originally led by Pacific countries, and the idea is to bring more visibility to the leadership and contribution of women in maritime, said Noceti. “So the three pillars of the programme are training, visibility and recognition. The idea of the day is to support the recruitment and retention of women in the maritime industry, really bring attention to their contribution, give the non-maritime public a better idea of the kinds of roles that women could do in the industry”.
But that is one of the big challenges. Shipping already has difficulty attracting young men and women into the industry, either at sea or ashore, so how can there be an extra focus on women, particularly in developing countries, where school outreach may be restricted. Part of the answer is to make sure the need for an influx of talent is not only focused on young men.
“The maritime industry tends to be an invisible industry somewhat. So our idea, we we’ve produced a video, for example, for the 18th of May, called Women in Maritime Can to feature all the different jobs that are available to women in maritime, to really get this idea out there that we have availability of jobs for men and women in the industry,” said Noceti.
“We need them, we need their contribution, we need the diversity. Diversity gives us a better outreach of ideas and innovation, so it’s definitely something that we’re focusing on to get the idea out there that women are more than welcome in the industry”.
The IMO has also established regional women in maritime associations, these are women that work in the maritime administrations and ports. And IMO has provided help to them to meet and discuss matters that pertain to them in the region. This includes access to training, leadership skills and courses tailored to each region.
“The theme for this year’s International Day for women in maritime is mobilising networks for gender equality. And it has all to do with these networks, these associations, it’s really to feature the work that they’ve done, and how they can cooperate in the future for a more, you know, from a regional to a global approach of this associations.”
The challenge will still be to get men, all men in the maritime industries more aware and more capable of talking about women in a positive way. There are still many countries with a poor history of gender balance and with traditions that are stifling of women and their careers.
The changes may be slow, but they have to be done in. way that is permanent, not easily undone when a pandemic or other back swan global calamity threatens and the knee-jerk reaction is to hark back to mis-remembered times of old.