The problems affecting recruiting and retaining women in shipping are the same as those that affect encouraging men to work to the industry, a panel told attendees at the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) seminar at London International Shipping Week (LISW).
“The maritime industry has really let itself down because there is a huge problem of recruitment and retention across the industry,” said the session’s chair, Bridget Hogan, director of publishing and marketing at the Nautical Institute.
Around 30% of both male and female seafarers return to work on the shore at around age 28, for many reasons but mainly for the purposes of starting families, the panel said.
The fact that careers at sea are so poorly promoted is one factor holding women back from advancing and become more numerous within the maritime workforce – and the same is true for men too, the panel agreed.
“Shipping is an industry of passing things down,” said panellist Captain Jessica Tyson, a master mariner, pilot and surveyor for UK-based CF Spencer & Co, who explained that women must lead by example in order to overcome any prejudice and excel within maritime industry.
“You know that there are sectors out there that will support women at sea, but what you don’t always know where the jobs are,” Captain Tyson said.
The invisibility of seafaring careers and of maritime industry as a whole is something that needs to be tackled, she continued: “We need to educate the public. We’re an island nation. It’s a global industry. If all seafarers went on strike, what would happen? World trade would stop. Perhaps we should try that, maybe then someone would listen.” (The audience responded with a round of applause.)