Women Engagement in Maritime and Logistics Industry

Women Engagement in Maritime and Logistics Industry

Nima Roshanaei

Board of Directors of the Shipping Association of Iran


The Maritime and logistics industry as one of the largest commercial enterprises worldwide is undergoing a technical, legal and administrative revamp during turbulent times. Managing crisis breeds innovation and new strategies on commercial and operational aspects of global logistics. The ever-growing shipping industry offers many career opportunities. Deploying assets and talents will determine how to shape the next normal, and women will play a crucial role in how to get there.

Women have better opportunities today to pursue careers in mid-level positions and administrative work than they had 30 years ago. The fair recognition of women’s contribution to the industry is considered to have its roots in 1988 when the International Maritime Organization (IMO) launched its Integration of Women in the Maritime Sector (IWMS) program. Inside this historically male-dominant industry, IMO has been making a concerted effort to help the industry move forward and support women to achieve a representation that is in keeping with twenty-first century expectations. The integration of women into this global industry has been sluggish due to various impediments. A looming problem is how the role and contribution of women in maritime and logistics development is recognized and framed. If women are to be fully included in the industry, discussions cannot be limited to participation in a few areas alone such as environmental work and entrepreneurship. Having women in positions of authority is crucial, but that must not come at the expense of experience, education and training. Despite the progress made by international organizations, it is still difficult for women to be accepted by some shipping companies. The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) estimates that only 2% of the world’s maritime workforce is made up of women. The time has come to shift the datum by enhancing opportunities for women to be more engaged in the global logistics platform.

Whilst recognizing that there is still a long way to achieve increased women representation in the industry, gradual but encouraging progress is being made over the last decade. Programs, research and resolutions are now in place and being facilitated through International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN). Although the industry has adopted initiatives like Women in Shipping, Women and Maritime taskforce and the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) towards raising the profile of women in all sectors, there is still room for further efforts and deep-rooted change.

The effort by international shipping and logistics organizations deploy assets and talents effectively, and by selecting and properly training female candidates into the job, the industry will see a balanced confluence of forces to produce innovative solutions. IMO facilitates access for women to maritime education and training, as well as the creation of professional networks for women in different regions worldwide; by facilitating access to high-level technical training by creating the environment in which women are identified and selected for career development opportunities in mid-level and administrative positions, as well as executive and general management. WISTA with more than 3000 members is an umbrella organization for women involved in shipping and trade related business throughout the world. One of its aims is for its members to develop professionally, providing information, exchanging knowledge and experiences and making new contacts and achieving a barrier-free working environment for women in the maritime and logistics sector.

For women to reach their full potential, the industry needs to ensure that the challenges women currently face in the sector are alleviated. Achieving a balanced workforce in logistics will undoubtedly improve culture, behavior, outcomes, profitability and productivity. Innovation and new technologies create new roles and opportunities. Digitalization and clean tech solutions open the door to people with different sets of skills and yet again raising the chances for more diversity in the industry. The fuse of more automation, plus the shrinking pool of people with seafaring and operational experience to come ashore and take jobs in shipping companies, means that woman can benefit. However, women in this global industry face issues like developing leadership confidence and having to overcome unconscious bias, as well as having to contend with a lack of prominent role models within the field.

Creating a community of experienced women in maritime and logistics occupations needs to take place at numerous tiers and in various sectors of the industry. Exciting and rewarding career opportunities are opening up for women and a new generation of strong and talented women are forthcoming. Certain shipping companies are looking more closely at their inclusion policies both in terms of gender and multiculturalism. To achieve a more diverse workforce, it is essential that women are visible both within the shipping and logistics community and, more widely, in representations of the sector in news reports and marketing material. The aim is to achieve a diversified representation of logistic careers in the media, so that roles such as captain, chief engineer and seafarer are also portrayed by women. Job advertising needs to appeal to all and to build an image of the modern, innovative workplace that shipping strives to be, so it can attract the best talent of the next generation. This will be the key to inspire young women to embark a career, by showing there is a place for them, especially within senior roles across all sectors.

Women are a growing force and the role of women in shipping continues to progress. For sustainability and success in the modern world, shipping needs diversity in the workforce and women helping to drive the decision-making processes. The maritime industry needs more women in leadership roles to take after, and their success will breed success. Women in the maritime and logistics world today are strong, powerful and constantly challenging old-fashioned perceptions. By improving women’s access to higher education and sophisticated skill-set training, exchanging experiences and offering equal opportunities to both men and women from a very young age, we will achieve an increased community engagement by building capacity for women engagement and empowerment and promoting women’s initiatives in all policy-making discussions.

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