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Trailblazers and role models: 8 women to watch in maritime

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It is said that 2018 is the year of the woman, and it is no wonder why. Today, it is almost impossible to look through the news or your social media feed and not find at least one story featuring a woman’s story, whether it is about her successes or negative experiences. International campaigns like the #MeToo movement further women’s visibility in the world and shed some light on the institutional issues that women face.

But what does this social movement mean for industries? Increasingly, a company’s (or even an industry’s) social attitude can be an influencing factor in millennials’ decision whether to work in a particular sector. The Deloitte survey of over 10,000 24-35-year-old millennials suggested that 43% of them are planning to leave their jobs within 2 years because they lost faith in their organisations’ ethics.

Diversity is an issue that several industries struggle to obtain, and maritime is no different. But failure to improve women’s visibility in the business can be detrimental, not only because maritime would be missing out on over 50% of the global work force, but also because millennials and younger generations like Gen Zs would not stand for it.

So we spoke to 8 women in the shipping and maritime industry about the challenges of recruiting women, the issues that women face when coming into the industry, and how the industry is collaborating to overcome these barriers: Karen Waltham, Managing Director, HR Consulting at Spinnaker Global, Karen Ogidigben, Director of Crew Management & Training at Hapag Lloyd Ship Management in Dubai, Sue Terpilowski, OBE, FCILT, President of WISTA UK & Chair Maritime UK – Women in Maritime Taskforce, Karin Orsel, CEO, MF Shipping Group, Debbie Cavaldoro, Head of Strategy, Nautilus International, Despina Theodosiou, President of WISTA International & CEO of Tototheo Maritime, Tanja Cohrt, Master Mariner, Burger Bereederungs Contor GmbH & Co.KG, and Krystyna Wojnarowicz, Founder, CTO and Chief Strategy Officer, MARSEC Inc.

The History of Maritime Employment

Maritime is traditional; it’s how this industry has been identified for many years. Although recently this label has been rejected by the pioneers of the industry, there are still areas in maritime where more innovation and more forward thinking is needed.

We have to recognise that every other industry is doing more to attract that huge talent pool.

“The reason why we’re missing out on the female work force at the moment is historic. Men went to sea and women didn’t”, Karen Waltham, Managing Director of HR Consulting at Spinnaker Global, stated. “Now we’re beginning to see the tide turn and more people are beginning to go into different industries as there is more visibility.”

Karen Ogidigben, Director of Crew Management & Training at Hapag Lloyd Ship Management in Dubai, weighed in on the matter, and noticed obstacles, stemmed from the industry’s traditions and current mindset.

“The challenges that surround women in the maritime industry largely derive from the traditionalist assumption that women are the weaker sex and are unable to handle the burden of a career that is largely seen as masculine”, Ogidigben said. “Even in ancient times and as evident in maritime history, men were the ones who went to sea and women looked after their homes, took care of children and waited for the seafaring men to come home. People easily remember great seafarers like Vasco da Gama, Francis Drake and Ferdinand Magellan from centuries ago but are there any female equivalents?”

Ogidigben continues: “Hundreds of years later, in an industry that comes with a lot of operational pressure and sometimes 24-hour shifts, this traditionalist “weaker sex” assumption still holds as the primary issue recruiters consider when recruiting a woman to a maritime role. ‘Can she handle the pressure and irregular working hours?’”

Reinventing Shipping: How to Build a Better Industry

Diversity is a global issue across many sectors, so shipping is in direct competition with other industries for the female work force.

“We have to recognise that every other industry is doing more to attract that huge talent pool”, Waltham said.

Sue Terpilowski, OBE, FCILT, President of WISTA UK and Chair of the Maritime UK – Women in Maritime Taskforce, sees an increase in the number of women in different industries, but numbers in maritime are stagnant.

“While women maintain a permanent presence in the maritime industry, their numbers have not paralleled the increasing proportion of women in other formerly male-dominated fields, especially medicine”, Terpilowski told us. “Women are recruited, and we have made progress, but there is a lot more to be done. We don’t have the data, but it is generally believed if you take out the roles of marketing, HR and general office administration (usually jobs people would be able to undertake in any sector therefore not maritime related posts) then the number of women is lower than in a lot of other sectors.”

Many of the challenges to recruiting women into the maritime industry are reflective of the wider problems in recruiting young people.

The benefits of diversity and gender equality have tangible financial effects, too. Terpilowski quoted McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report from 2015: “In the UK, greater gender diversity of the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in the report’s data set: for every 10 percent increase in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5 percent.”

“It makes business sense”, Terpilowski stated. “More diverse companies are better able to attract top talent and improve their customer and employee satisfaction, better decision making, and all this leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.”

Recruiting and Accepting Women into Shipping

“The maritime industry is still fairly unknown to the public and resulted in shortages of qualified staff, often in specific skills”, Karin Orsel, WISTA Ambassador and CEO of MF Shipping Group, said. “In the past, but also currently, the shortage related to technical staff is quite big, for the future, however the demands will change, and automation and digitalization are key. This requires a skill set that women accelerate in.”

But according to Debbie Cavaldoro, Head of Strategy at the Nautilus International, the issues relating to recruitment are much more universal rather than gender specific.

“I think many of the challenges to recruiting women into the maritime industry are reflective of the wider problems in recruiting young people”, Cavaldoro noted. “Firstly, there is still a lack of awareness of the industry as a whole, and the vast number of opportunities which exist. When young people hear about our maritime nation it is often in the context of history and not in terms of 95% of everything we eat, use and consume coming to us via the sea. Not to mention ferries, cruise ships and superyachts.”

“At a time when it is very important to attract, recruit and retain talented people in our industry, we need to show that shipping is vibrant and multi-faceted, that it is welcoming to people with the right skills”, Despina Theodosiou, President of WISTA International and CEO of Tototheo Maritime. “We want to encourage corporate decisions that are gender blind, ensuring that decisions about employment, and industry opportunity, are based on merit and recognised skills, without any consideration of gender, race or any other perceived difference.”

But Ogidigben’s report of historical discrimination, indeed, continues today. When Tanja Cohrt, who is currently Master Mariner at Burger Bereederungs Contor GmbH & Co.KG, started out, the challenges she met often turned out to derive from shipping’s deep-seated history.

“When I applied for an internship on board for the first time in 2005, several shipping companies replied that I would be rejected, because these companies would not employ women onboard at all. I was given reasons varying from “we have never had women onboard” to “no separate washrooms for men and women onboard”, and to the last point I must say that all ships I have ever worked on had bathrooms in each cabin, not shared washrooms. Eventually, I found a shipping company to start my internship, where I later worked as an officer and they promoted me to Master about two years ago.”

Terpilowski suggested: “If female recruitment is to increase, there needs to be concentrated effort promoting the reasons why a young person should aspire to be part of the sector. We know that career decisions are forged at a young age and even though the UK is an island nation, many are ‘sea blind’ and unaware of all the career opportunities and varied positions maritime has to offer.”

If seafaring experience was a criterion for my growth in the industry, employers would have missed out on the contributions I have offered over the years.

Ogidigben said: “We ought to create a level playing field for everyone. It is not about women battling men for roles in the industry but more about gender equity, inclusion and contribution to the bigger picture. We can, through example, become the motivation for the women to come in and give their quota to the maritime industry. The more visible women are in the maritime industry, the more we can inspire other women to join the sector.”

Her Story: “Start Up My Own Company”

Karin Orsel shared the humble beginnings of MF Shipping Group:

“On my 18th by coincidence, I started working on the bookkeeping of a shipping company. The company I worked for was in quite stormy waters and on my 23rd year I had a couple of options, leave the industry to start a career elsewhere, accept a part time job at a ship yard or start up my own company. Despite the lack of entrepreneurs in the family, a long history or family bond with the maritime industry nor a huge capital available, I decided to go for it and start up my own ship management company.

We started in 1994 with 3 people at the office, the management of 6 general dry cargo vessels and 50 seafarers. Next year on our 25th company anniversary, we will be managing and partly owning a fleet of around 60 vessels including chemical- and product tankers, cement carriers, self-unloaders and general dry cargo vessels with approx. 1250 seafarers and office staff.

My journey has been one big, and at times steep learning curve. When starting up your own company without specific knowledge, you have to make sure you are surrounded by good advisors, trust your colleagues and give them the support and space to develop themselves. You learn the most from mistakes and develop a second sense with respect to people and business opportunities. It is, however, the best step I ever took and if I had to do it all over again – I would not make a different choice!”

Biased Talent Pipeline

The importance of seafaring time and in-depth experience is a well-established criterium for certain jobs, and many in the industry believe this to be a key necessity. At CrewConnect Global 2017, Gerardo Borromeo, Vice President of the Philippines Shipowners’ Association, asked attendees: “We could build a ship in a year, but how fast is it taking us to build a captain and a chief engineer?” This issue circles back to the maritime industry’s recruitment challenges, and HR professional Karen Waltham has an out-of-the-box solution.

“Having a knowledge and understanding of what happens at sea can be taught or developed in a different way”, Waltham argued. “Personally, I’ve done vessel visits, so I have an understanding of how things work because I’ve been shown. I have never been on a voyage, but I have colleagues who went on a 3-5 day one. But that’s no different from, for example, experiencing court for the first time as a legal professional, or working in a branch as a financial professional. I think it’s good to have seafaring experience, as you need to have an understanding of what each role means and where each role fits into the organisation, but I don’t think that seafaring time is necessary.”

Maternity leave is an optional choice for women nowadays with parental or paternity leave becoming a trend, so women won’t necessarily have to stay at home.

Ogidigben, a woman who found success in the maritime industry despite lacking seafaring experience, weighed in: “Most employers believe that you need to have spent time at sea, even for non-technical maritime jobs and roles, and of course the percentage of women that fit into this category is small. I remember this was one of the topics discussed at the Crew Connect Europe 2018. I understand the maritime industry to a very good extent, having had the opportunity to work within the offshore, harbour towage and container sectors for several years. I do not have a seafaring background, and neither was it a childhood career option. I believe if seafaring experience was a criterion for my growth in the industry, employers would have missed out on the contributions I have offered over the years and I would not be in the position I am today.”

Her Story: From STEM to Maritime

“I had just finished university where I graduated as a biochemist and I was looking for a role in the petroleum sector when I responded to an advert for a new crewing agency looking for staff”, Ogidigben shared with us. “I knew absolutely nothing about the maritime sector, but I had the enthusiasm to learn so I accepted a starting role in business development and crewing with a rather modest salary. The job gave me the opportunity to learn about the maritime industry and my employer recognised my passion and the fact that I was a quick study and entrusted me with more responsibilities than my job title really entailed.”

She continued: “Nigeria is one of the most challenging countries and maritime environments in the world and there I was, a young woman dealing with both seafarers and vessel owners who basically had decades of experience in the industry and they all thought I was great at it. 18 months into my role, a client whom I had dealt with thought I could do much more for them on a global scale than I could in Nigeria and recruited me to work for them in Dubai.

Dubai was an entirely different environment, being at the crossroads between Europe, Africa and Asia, and I added it to my repertoire in the maritime sector, gaining international experience and working with a rather diverse set of clients, colleagues and crewing teams. To further buttress my career with academic experience, I decided to study for an MBA in Ship Management.

In Dubai, I spent several years in a supervisory role where I developed skills such as communication and learning how to manage people across diverse cultures as well. It wasn’t all easy. I initially had challenges with issues such as diplomacy and navigating the complex world of office politics, but my work ethic and experience gathered from demanding roles made up for those particular deficiencies.

By the time I started ascending the career ladder in the industry, I came to understand that having experience as well as a great work ethic are all positive things but having the right attitude and people skills will take you much further at a certain level.

One person I would like to credit with a great deal for my personal development was Steven O’Brien, my manager at Svitzer Maersk, another company I later worked with. Steven would always point out my positives but also show me personal areas that needed to be worked on. He didn’t stop at pointing out but explained how such areas to be worked on would better complement my skillset and experience.

He encouraged me to be a better manager and basically entrusted me with both higher responsibilities and the freedom and confidence to do my job.

It is important to look inward and make changes to one’s personality as this goes along with competence, skillset, experience and how far you can go in the maritime sector. Having great managers and employers has also helped me grow and has furthered my career as they were all very willing to offer positive references to the next employer.

I wake up unlearning to relearn as I remind myself, I cannot know it all and knowledge comes both from your superiors and your reports. So far, my journey has surprised me but I also believe that I did a lot of work to get here, with my passion and dedication as well as a capacity for introspection, driving my performance.”

Family Planning & Flexible Contracts

One of the oldest stereotypes of women is that once family planning starts, women’s careers are over. But this is the 21st century, and both women and men have more choices in the roles they take in their families.

“Maternity leave is an optional choice for women nowadays with parental or paternity leave becoming a trend, so women won’t necessarily have to stay at home”, Waltham explained.

“Family and motherhood is another challenge when it comes to recruiting women especially at sea”, Ogidigben said. “Questions will emerge regarding rotation scheduling when she becomes pregnant or is a nursing mother. I met a female chief officer from the UK who told me about sailing with her child on a passenger ferry and getting some strange stares and questions. It often seems to be a global perception that women cannot handle motherhood and certain types of careers at the same time.”

However, Terpilowski noticed a trend that “women don’t tend to return to the sector after leaving for maternity or other reasons, so we are not making ourselves attractive enough as somewhere to return to”.

Krystyna Wojnarowicz, Founder, CTO and Chief Strategy Officer of MARSEC, argues that “prolonged times out at sea are a challenge for many women”, so “the introduction of new digital technologies and remote operations may appeal to a larger number of women and attract them the industry.”

A lot of employers are not ready to handle the issues that come with sexual harassment related complaints whether true, untrue or imagined.

One other thing the industry could do is to improve on contracts, more specifically making them flexible.

“On flights nowadays, there are many different types of contracts”, Waltham illustrated. “Some stewards and stewardesses work one shift a month or do the long haul like a 5-day trip, because they have contracts that allow them to do that, let’s say as a working parent. There are all sorts of different contracts, so businesses need to make sure that employment is ethical, fair, and consistent, and maritime will get there. But they do need to embrace change, not resist.”

Paternity leave is also an emerging trend. Mercer’s 2016 Global Parental Leave report found that 42% of companies encourage employees to take paternity leave. Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, told People Management: “Taking paid paternity leave can lead to fewer absences and help fathers to be more productive when they return. It’s also important to provide flexible working options wherever possible, to help parents share childcare responsibilities and balance work and home.”

Her Story: A Family in Maritime

Theodosiou shared her journey in the maritime industry:

“My father was a captain, who came ashore when I was born but remained in the industry until his retirement. Most of our family friends were involved in shipping one way or another. I must admit that when it was time for me to decide on a career path, I was hesitant at first because I wanted to do something different, but I realised early that I was always inspired by the industry and I have a passion for it. It has been an exciting journey for me – with its ups and downs of course – but I would not change it.

Quite frankly I believe you need to be built for it and I think it fits my personality. This is an industry where careers can be very fulfilling, if you are ambitious and work hard, it is an industry that is rewarding. I like the fact that there is no routine, that there is always something to be learned, that it’s a global career.”

Gender Politics & Establishing Policies

“We all agree that shipping has historically been a male dominated industry. Of course, today, things are increasingly changing but I think that our main challenge now is the preconception that our industry is unapproachable or unfriendly to women”, Theodosiou said.

Gender politics and equality are challenges in many work places, and again, maritime is no exception. The particular challenge may lie in the industry’s lack of experience in hiring women. Tanja Cohrt recalls that many of the companies that initially rejected her applications do indeed employ women, despite telling her that it was just simply not done.

“Fact is that gender equality is happening very slowly in freight shipping. For on shore companies, it is standard to have set rules for gender equality, prohibition of harassment and points of contact for women who faced any of these problems, but on board, these topics are very often not in focus. Maybe the ISM includes a rule against discrimination, but even this long-known problem is usually not actively intervened by the shipping company. In my point of view, shipping companies do not actively try to employ women, because at some point it becomes necessary to establish rules and the enforcement of the rules would consume manpower and resources.”

Ogidigben noted that “another challenge when recruiting women, especially female sailors, is the risk of sexual harassment. A lot of employers are not ready to handle the issues that come with sexual harassment related complaints whether true, untrue or imagined, so they just prefer to avoid the risk entirely. Larger companies can take the risk so are more flexible. Women in the maritime industry also have to deal with the challenge of insubordination from male employees who might find their egos challenged in a male-dominated industry, because they have to report to a female superior. This is more likely to happen in poorly sensitised organisations and in such situations, it is common for a female employee to constantly question whether a subordinate would act disrespectfully if the same set of instructions had come from a male superior.”

“We need to make sure there are friendly policies in place”, Waltham suggested. “Some people can’t put women on vessels because they don’t have the right facilities, which is being rectified. Some companies are recruiting female middle officers and they are not putting them on their own on vessels. They are set up in pairs or trios so that they have support and that they are not on their own. They make sure that men are prepared to have women in this environment. If you think about a product on a vessel, you’d need to make sure that the environment you’re putting your product into is safe, sound, effective and appropriate, and that’s exactly what needs to be done for women on ships.”

Improving the Vessel & Work Environment

“Recruiting female seafarers comes with a financial cost on certain vessels” Ogidigben said. “Employers have to create separate berth spaces and sanitary facilities for women onboard. I have met many vessel owners and managers who see this as a challenge. In a scenario where you have 1 female 3rd officer onboard, will she share a cabin and sanitary facilities with the men? Will everyone be ok with a junior officer having a cabin to herself? It gets easier when you have more females on board, but you first have to get past other mentioned challenges such as sexual harassment, insubordination, etc. before looking at berth space.

“I believe, however, that over time in the industry, a woman learns to adapt and deal with some of these challenges, such as insubordination, by being firm and fair at the same time while asserting authority. Over time people, fall in line and it becomes a non-issue. Other challenges can be equally dealt with by showing that your gender is not a disadvantage and you can hold your own in the industry just as well as the men. Certain other more complex challenges however will require an inclusive approach to find solutions from all stakeholders concerned.”

It is high time that connectivity for personal use was addressed.

Despite the initial challenges when searching for an internship, Cohrt described her experiences as “the most exciting and challenging time of my life”.

“All my life, I wanted to be a mechanical engineer”, Cohrt said, “and when I finished high school, my thirst for adventure succeeded and I joined the University of Applied Sciences in Bremen to study nautical science. The study started with a six-month internship on board and I got to be cadet on a containership trading South and North America, including the Caribbean. I truly enjoyed the time on board and continued the study at home. Upon completion of the course, I started working as a navigational officer and quickly worked my way up in the ranks. It wouldn’t be true to say it was all easy, but in general, I had good relationships with my fellow crew members, with respect and trust on both sides. On rare occasions, the respect towards me as a female person working onboard a container ship and towards my work and knowledge was missing. Even when I was able to solve such problems by myself, the strong support of my shipping company was of indispensable aid, also by setting high standards regarding gender equality within crew onboard. Looking back at the last eight years, of which I worked as Master for the past two years, I would say, this was the most exciting and challenging time of my life, never one day would be the same as the other.”

There are also generic things the industry could do for seafarers, especially the younger generations, who might be looking to find the same level of connectivity that they’d have when on shore.

“In terms of seafarers, it is high time that connectivity for personal use was addressed”, Cavaldoro stated. “Most ships are now very advanced and in contact with the shore but there are still too many seafarers who cannot keep in contact with friends and family. Nautilus International did a survey of seafarers last year which found that most ships were connected to the internet but only around half could access personal email and less than a third could use social media.

“If connectivity was improved then more females, and young people, would be happier to go to sea. Especially if we stop talking about spending 30 years or more at sea. If more people realised that a sea career can mean earning while you train and then bringing that knowledge to a shore-side job then they may be more willing to do it.”

Language Matters

As mentioned earlier in this article, maritime pioneers have rejected the industry’s traditional label. The message that the pioneers are trying to get across is that maritime cannot stay traditional and it will not be so. The continued use of the label may become a self-fulfilling prophecy – if the language and terminology used in maritime won’t change, neither will the industry.

Coming from a communications background, Terpilowski suggests: “We need to change the language. Shipping and maritime sector uses very masculine vocabulary in its everyday behaviours. This sends out the wrong signals. It leads women to having a sense that the sector is a low diversity environment. Consequently, this leads to women to anticipate that they will not ‘fit in’ and are not welcome. So the big risk then is that well qualified women will not apply and if you don’t have the right mix to start with how can you have a diverse workforce? You can’t appoint the best person if she doesn‘t apply!”

“Another area we need to address is the inherent unconscious bias within the industry”, Terpilowski continued. “Just because in the past a male or an ex sea captain has done a specific role that it still needs to be done by this person. Job descriptions, roles and adverts all need to be looked at.”

What women in maritime are doing for women in the industry

All of the above are ways that shipping could improve in order to become more attractive, visible, and open to women (and young people, in general), but there is more! Today, you can find several associations and initiatives in maritime that aim to promote and diversify the maritime workforce.

WISTA

Orsel, who is a Women's International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) Ambassador, uses her connections to spread diversity maritime:

“I am promoting our industry as much as possible for instance by speaking and actively participating at various industry conferences and events. Next to that, I am part of the International Chamber of Shipping delegation that will be discussing the recruitment, retention and work conditions of Women in Maritime at the International Labour Organization next year. I am an active International Seafarers Welfare Assistant Network (ISWAN) board member. The focus is pointed at the wellbeing of seafarers and within my own company we aim to attract more women in various ‘traditional male dominated’ office roles and we have also set a target to hire women trainees on board of our vessels.”

Attracting more women in the industry is a priority for WISTA International President Theodosiou, who declared: “Our main goal should be to show the opportunities that this sector provides. Especially at this point in time when we see technological advancements and a great effort towards a sustainable future for the shipping industry. We have gained consultative status with the IMO and this is a great opportunity for us to work together on mainstreaming women’s participation in our sector.

"Furthermore, we are founding partners of the European Commission’s Platform for Change which promotes the equality of men and women in the transport sector. Together with the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers we are providing a number of scholarships each year to women who want to expand their knowledge in certain areas of our industry.

"We have created committees within our organisation, made up of members from around the world. One of these committees contributes on diversity issues and the other on technology and futures thinking. It is important that we demonstrate that women can provide leadership on the key issues facing our industry and one area that is growing in importance and highly relevant if we are to promote sustainability, is how technology is changing the maritime sector. One more thing we should emphasise is the promotion of role models – women that have already succeeded in their careers, either shoreside or at sea, setting a great example for anyone working in, or thinking of joining, shipping.”

Maritime UK: Women in Maritime Taskforce

Terpilowski, who is also involved with WISTA added: “The Maritime 2UK Women’s Taskforce and WISTA UK are both working hard to help change the culture and behaviour. The taskforce has launched its diversity pledge and will be launching its charter in the autumn. WISTA UK will be running a series of seminars addressing some of the key areas, including unconscious bias, confidence to speak up, and language in recruitment”.

Waltham, who is a member of the Women’s Taskforce, has been advocating diversity in maritime in her role as Managing Director of HR Consulting as well: “Here, at Spinnaker Global we are working closely with companies and HR departments to aid the attraction, development and retention of women in the industry. We have produced salary benchmarking gender statistics for the maritime HR Association members to find out what matters the most to the maritime workforce. We also seek out opportunities to educate and promote diversity and inclusion across the industry at all levels, for example at conferences like CrewConnect Global and our own Maritime HR Conference. Spinnaker Global regularly attends schools’ careers fairs to promote the maritime industry to a wider audience and introduce this sector at an earlier stage in careers.”

Nautilus International: Women’s Forum

“Nautilus established a Women’s Forum in 2009 to provide a platform for female members to come together to provide support to each other and also advise the Union’s Council on work the Union should be doing to support women members”, Cavaldoro shared. “Since its establishment, the forum has overseen the development of several resources aimed at supporting female seafarers. They also assisted in the setting up of a similar forum for younger members.

"As with most things that support female seafarers, these resources are aimed at all seafarers and help to make a better working environment for all. Some of the resources include a guide to maternity and paternity leave, a training programme to end bullying and harassment in the industry and a campaign aimed at providing guidance on moving through a career at sea, from the first trip to sea to moving to a shore-based job. The Women’s forum has also supported a few members to stand and be elected to the Union’s Council, ensuring that the Council moves to being more representative of its members.

Nautilus International is also part of a number of maritime bodies including the MNTB and Maritime UK and has been ensuring that the voices of female seafarers and all seafarer are heard throughout the industry. The Union has also taken a number of its resources to the European and International Transport Workers Federation to encourage their adoption on a wider scale.”

“I am passionate about encouraging women”

Ogidigben uses every networking opportunity to sensitise the maritime industry on the importance of female inclusion: “Variety is the spice of life, right? Why can’t we spice the industry with a mix of talents and ideas from both genders? I also encourage women in the industry to be more courageous and engaging in the industry, rather than taking the back seat. The work lies with us and I am passionate about encouraging women, both old and young to join the maritime sector and have their potentials harnessed positively.

"I have decided to focus on human capital and capacity building in the maritime sector, to motivate the younger generation to be better seafarers as well as encourage the current population to drive the inclusion of women seafarers without bias or prejudice. We all have to erase patriarchy as we have known it and evolve with the world as in today. Patriarchy and gender bias hinders our exploration of talents, possibilities as well as potentials and we must break stereotype and look beyond what we once knew and open our minds to what could and/or would be.

"We have a shortage of talent in the industry and bridging this gap has become even more expedient now than a few years ago. There are women in the industry who are thriving and succeeding but the percentage is still low.

"There is a lack of awareness and information at schools, career talks and even social media on the diverse opportunities for women in the maritime industry. I will keep networking and finding groups who have same desire I have to encourage women to join the maritime sector. We certainly need the support of the men as well as companies too and I am positive we will achieve this goal in the near future.”

This article was first published in the ePaper Seafarer Transformations: Diversity, Technology, and Leadership in Maritime.

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