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Editorial: Women in Maritime Can!

Chennai, 24 May 2023:

The second International Day for Women in Maritime celebrated on Thursday, 18 May 2023, seeks to highlight the importance of collaboration and networking in achieving gender equality in the maritime sector.  

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said: “Women are working in all facets of the maritime sector across the globe, on shore and at sea to support the transition to a decarbonized, digitalized and more sustainable future for the industry. There is still a significant gender imbalance in maritime. Times are changing – but we need to accelerate that change. The benefits for the whole sector of improved diversity in the workforce is evident.”

Today, women represent only 1.2% per cent of the global seafarer workforce. This represents a positive trend in gender balance, with the report estimating 24,059 women serving as seafarers, which is a 45.8% increase compared with the 2015 report.

Within this historically male-dominated 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.

Within the framework of maritime development, and through its Women in Maritime programme, under the slogan: “Training-Visibility-Recognition”, IMO has taken a strategic approach towards enhancing the contribution of women as key maritime stakeholders.

IMO continues to support the participation of women in both shore-based and sea-going posts.

IMO is strongly committed to helping its Member States achieve the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

IMO’s gender programme was initiated in 1988. At that time, only a few maritime training institutes opened their doors to female students.

Since then, IMO’s gender and capacity-building programme has helped put in place an institutional framework to incorporate a gender dimension into IMO’s policies and procedures. This has supported access to maritime training and employment opportunities for women in the maritime sector.

IMO supports gender equality and the empowerment of women through gender-specific fellowships; by facilitating access to high-level technical training for women in the maritime sector in developing countries; by creating the environment in which women are identified and selected for career development opportunities in maritime administrations, ports and maritime training institutes; and by facilitating the establishment of professional women in maritime associations, particularly in developing countries.

IMO has facilitated the creation of professional networks to improve gender balance in the shipping industry. 

Under IMO’s auspices, eight Women in Maritime Associations (WIMAs) have been established in Africa, Arab States, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, covering some 152 countries and dependent territories and 490 participants.

Access to these regional maritime associations for women provides members with a platform to discuss a number of issues, not just about gender, but also technical issues.

These associations could go some way to bridging the gap in narrowing some of the institutional barriers and cultural stigma facing women who enter the maritime industry.

Through IMO, each regional network has established national chapters which have delivered maritime career days and various activities, such as information on HIV prevention and sexual health; and beach clean-ups.

The Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA International) is an international networking organization with a mission to attract and support women, at the management level, in the maritime, trading and logistics sectors.

WISTA was granted consultative status with IMO in 2018. Consultative status gives WISTA the opportunity to promote diversity, inclusion and women’s empowerment.

WISTA can now formally contribute to the discussion for increasing capacity in the maritime industry, a critical component of which is promoting women in the industry, both shoreside and shipboard, and also showcasing the varied technical skills and leadership that women can and do bring to the industry.

Females have always been a minority in the maritime industry. Besides, many are still of the belief that maritime is a man’s world and females have no business there.

In recent years, there has been a gradual shift in attitudes and a growing recognition of women’s contributions in the maritime industry. More females are breaking the barriers and excelling in various roles in the industry.

This progress not only highlights the push towards gender inclusivity in the sector but also that females are equally capable and deserving of opportunities in this field.

The maritime industry is no different.

Promoting gender equality fosters innovation, collaboration and problem-solving, which leads to a more successful and progressive maritime industry.

This also serves as an inspiration to future generations of women to pursue their dreams fearlessly. Females are vital to the development of the maritime industry.

As we celebrate this year’s International Day for Women in Maritime, let us all be inspired by the continued success of women in maritime.

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