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gender balance
Gender equality
Women in Maritime
August 31, 2016

Women on the board: the reality and the myth


MANY businesses worldwide are still failing to make the most of female talent, according to a report issued on International Women’s Day by the World Economic Forum.

The report, the Corporate Gender Gap, contrasted the fine words of governments and business leaders with the reality. The idea that most corporations have become gender-balanced or women-friendly is a myth, it said. Of 600 companies surveyed across 20 countries, fewer than 5 per cent had women chief executives. Nor has there been an improvement in the pay gap, which is an average 18 per cent lower than for men.

Diversity is becoming not just desirable, but essential in the modern business world, declared the secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Efthimios Mitropoulos, in his keynote speech to the 2009 Annual Conference of the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (Wista). He said that there was no intrinsic reason why women should not participate in, and benefit from employment in, the shipping industry.

However, it is true that shipping has historically been regarded as a male preserve. The relevance of sea-going experience to many shore-based jobs within the maritime industry means that the pool of women with these skills is very much lessened, thus reducing the overall representation of women in this sector as a whole.

Mr Mitropoulos said that in the secretariat, three of the six directors were women ‘and that sets the tone for the rest of the organisation’.

Singapore, despite being a maritime hub and a financial and investment centre, interestingly shares somewhat similar circumstances. Although women in Singapore have carved a solid reputation as equals to the men, there remains a psychological need for women to prove themselves in the male-dominated shipping industry, to work harder and be more aggressive to fight for limited resources.

Wista was formed in the UK in 1974 by a group of shipping women in London. It is an international organisation for women in management positions involved in maritime transportation business and related trades worldwide.

The Singapore chapter, the first in Asia, was established in 1998 as a non-profit organisation, to provide a networking forum for women shipping professionals. Members come from a diverse range of specialist fields across the maritime sector, from professionals in bunkering houses, chartering, insurance and P&I Clubs, flag registries, finance, to shipowners, suppliers, lawyers and shipbrokers.

There are now 25 national Wistas worldwide, with more than 1,200 members. In 2009, the three-day Wista Annual Conference was held in London, co-sponsored by IMO, Lloyds Register, Fairplay, TradeWinds, Marshall Islands Registry, Blank Rome, the House of Lords sponsored by Lord Ambrose and the Bahamas Maritime Authority.

This September, the three-day Wista Conference with the title Achieving Sustainability: Paving the Way to Shipping Excellence will be held in Athens from Sept 29 to Oct 1. More details can be found on www.wista.net.Such conferences are important as they provide a platform for mentorship and networking.

Women are set to play their part in the growing maritime industry. Efforts to push forth maritime education and profiling the maritime careers are crucial to attracting more women into the sector and for women in management positions to maximise their potential, for the benefit of their organisations and the maritime sector as a whole.

The writer is president of the Singapore chapter of the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association

Women step forward
August 31, 2016

lloydslistLloyd’s List

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.

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