Tuesday 12 October 2010
WELL over 300 women made the 30th Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association international conference, held in Athens, a rip-roaring success.
Among headline speakers was International Maritime Organization secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos, who took a moment out from a focus on emission issues to underscore the UN-wide commitment to gender equality.
With the World Trade Organisation predicting a 13.5% growth in world trade this year, Mitropoulos said that many new job opportunities in the sector should follow and voiced his hope that: “Shipping simply cannot afford any longer to ignore the huge workforce potential that women provide, in all sectors — from high-level management to the humble but all-important seafarer at the sharp end,” to applause.
There was a celebratory mood to the three-day event, which was organised by a tireless team at Wista Hellas, the association’s Greek branch. That certainly applied to a strong Nigerian contingent who, garbed in colourful national dress, sang their anthem at the start of the last session to mark the country’s 50th anniversary of independence.
Many delegates told Last Word that they revelled in being at an event where they were not heavily outnumbered by men.
Some feel intimidated by getting up to speak on such occasions — a feeling that panellist Manolis Vordonis, executive director of Thenamaris Ships Management, said he could empathise with as he surveyed, for once, a roomful of female faces.
Greece is where the girls are
NO ONE should be surprised when strong women are at the fore of Greek affairs.
As documented in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, Greek women were feisty enough back in ancient times to force their menfolk to negotiate peace under the threat of withdrawal of, er, marital privileges. Sophocles’ heroine Antigone offers a prototype for courage and honour in civil disobedience, one that inspired Nelson Mandela to the point that he is said to have played the role in jailhouse performances of the Greek tragedy.
Good to see that beyond the recent Wista conference, other visitors to Greek shores are picking up on the significant female element in the local maritime community.
InterManager secretary-general Kuba Szymanski noted at the Safety4Sea Forum: Improving Safety Beyond Compliance, held at the Eugenides Foundation in Athens, that 12% of the audience were women.
“Everywhere you go there are almost no women participating in maritime events,” he said. That was certainly true in Singapore, Dubai and other eastern hubs, he claimed. But also London could not compete with Greece — “the only country where so many ladies are involved in the shipping industry,” he said approvingly.
It should be said that Szymanski’s focus was statistical. He also informed delegates that he had counted 176 in the morning session of the conference, of whom 65% were wearing jackets. But 106 were left in the auditorium by the close of the final session, he added.