Survey highlights shipping’s diversity challenges

Preliminary results from a Diversity Study Group survey highlight gender disparity at management level and need for progress on pay gap and workplace culture across maritime.

The survey aims to act as a barometer for diversity and inclusion across the shipping industry. By collecting data on the true state of shipping’s diversity picture, it aims to highlight where further work is needed and champion the benefits of diversity.

The results show a stark disparity in gender balance. Strikingly, 95% of respondents working in senior management roles are male.

The results also show a lack of ethnic diversity at C-suite, director and head of department level, with respondents identifying as white comprising by far the largest proportion of these roles.

Gender imbalance is less pronounced in other roles and levels of seniority. 34% of respondents in commercial roles are female and 51% of female respondents described themselves as working in ‘mid-level roles’. It is also notable that 42% of female respondents are aged 25-34. This could indicate a growing pool of female talent for more senior roles, provided there is a pathway to further progression. On this point, there was near parity among respondents who received a promotion in the past 12 months – 47% female and 50% male.

When it comes to salaries and bonuses, 61% of respondents reported a salary increase in the past 12 months. Of this 61%, 49% are male and 46% are female. This gap widens when looking at the size of the increase; of those reporting a pay rise of 2-4%, 56% are male and 41% are female. There is also a significant gender disparity in the award of bonuses. Of those reporting a bonus, 55% are male and 41% are female. Moreover, the survey results reveal further inequality in the size of the bonus, with a higher proportion of male employees receiving larger amounts.

Participating companies spanned a range of industry sectors, organisational types and locations, but with strong representation from the shipowning and trading sectors.

Commenting on the initial findings from the survey, Heidi Heseltine, co-founder of the Diversity Study Group and regular Splash columnist, said: “The picture that emerges from the survey is mixed. There is a stark lack of diversity at shipping’s top table, when it comes to the profile of those in C-suite and senior management roles. There are big differences between male and female responses when describing their working environment. By a margin of 2:1, women feel less able to raise discrimination concerns, feel less valued for their contribution and feel they lack a supporting peer group at work. This goes to the heart of how diversity and inclusion affects workplace culture and the progress still to be made.

“The survey also shows some positive trends in our industry and we want to recognise progress and share best practice. For example, 61% of respondents said their employer has a D&I policy, which is a decent starting point. When it comes to gender imbalance, it is encouraging to see the number of women in the industry, with a significant number of younger women and in mid-level roles. The challenge for shipping is to ensure that there is no glass ceiling when it comes to reaching more senior roles and that they are rewarded fairly for the jobs they are doing today.”

The survey remains open and the Diversity Study Group is encouraging anyone who works in the shipping industry in a shore-based role to participate. To participate in the survey, click here.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. If adding diversity the plutocracy can continue to manage the economy of the most remote suburb of the planet, then it is done.

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