How to get more women seafarers on board!
Around 80% of international trade is seaborne, making seafaring key to worldwide security, development and economic prosperity.
Around 80% of international trade is seaborne, making seafaring key to worldwide security, development and economic prosperity. It’s been 10 years since the International Maritime Organization (IMO) started paying tribute to those who work at sea. And this year on 25 June the IMO’s theme, Seafarers are Key Workers, reemphasised that seafarers are central to the global economy.
Brave people – both men and women – work in this industry that is often harsh and challenging, especially now during COVID-19. But women are not often visible in seafaring. Though the IMO has actively advocated for greater incorporation of women in the maritime sector over the past three decades, women are still largely underrepresented in this space.
Seafaring has historically been, and remains, a male-dominated sector. Few maritime spheres, including seafaring, have gender-responsive policies. The most recent study of women in maritime calculated that only about 2% of the 1.2 million seafaring workforce are women, and almost all (94%) work in the cruise industry. Maritime industries, legal regimes and educational establishments are geared more towards male seafarers and have largely excluded women.
Women also face numerous challenges not experienced by men. One of those is that their struggles and concerns are often invisible or ignored. According to a survey conducted among women seafarers in East and Southern Africa, women working on vessels often feel isolated, undermined and underappreciated. They have to work harder to receive the same level of recognition as their male counterparts.
Recently published Institute for Security Studies (ISS) research examines these issues and how women navigate their way within the male-dominated maritime sector. The ISS report argues that the United Nations’ Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda provides some guidance for women in the maritime industry.