“Whoever rules the waves, rules the world” MAHAN
The maritime industry has long been a male-dominated realm, with women’s participation restricted to a few select roles. However, as we navigate the 21st century, it’s become necessary we address the underrepresentation of women in this crucial sector. This article delves into the challenges women face in maritime education, training, and employment, while also highlighting the significant strides some women have made in breaking these barriers.
To understand the importance of women’s empowerment in maritime, we must recognize that it’s not a recent phenomenon. Over 2,000 years ago, the daughters of Zelophehad challenged societal norms and, through divine intervention, secured inheritance rights for women (Numbers 27:1-5). This historical precedent showcases the enduring significance of women’s empowerment, inclusion, and diversity.
The Economic and Social Imperative
Women’s empowerment in maritime isn’t just a matter of equality; it’s also about economic growth and social progress. Countries with greater gender equality experience improved economic growth. Companies with women in leadership roles tend to perform better. Moreover, peace agreements involving women are more durable, and parliaments with more women legislate on key social issues effectively.
Despite these compelling reasons for empowering women in maritime, several barriers persist. One significant issue is the lack of visibility of the industry in schools. Societal stereotypes often dictate which courses perceived as suitable for men or women, discouraging young women from considering maritime careers. Hostile environments and limited female role models further deter women from male-dominated fields.
The Role of Maritime Organizations
Maritime organizations must take proactive steps to address these challenges. Policies to promote women’s representation on boards and in management positions are essential. Adequate funding and scholarships should be allocated specifically for women pursuing careers in maritime education and training as currently being undertaken by the Regional Maritime University (RMU) where the Ag. vice Chancellor, Dr. Jethro W. Brooks launched a fundraising to support females in Maritime and related areas to serve as a support mechanism for women to enroll at the University.
Also, to encourage more women to join the maritime sector, we need to provide flexible working conditions, including opportunities for remote work. Representation matters, so having more women in leadership positions will inspire younger generations to follow suit.
Notable Ghanaian Women in Maritime
It’s crucial to celebrate the achievements of women who have broken barriers in the maritime world. Women like Capt. Beatrice Vermawoh, Capt. Hannah Abba Aggrey, Capt. Georgina Jopap, Capt. Catherine Haizel, and MS Kadijah Amoah, among others, have paved the way for future generations.
Challenges on the High Seas
Women working in offshore roles face unique challenges, such as Underrepresentation where they remain significantly underrepresented in various roles in the maritime sector, including seafaring, ship management, and port operations. This underrepresentation can limit career opportunities and advancement.
Deep-rooted gender stereotypes also persist in the maritime industry, affecting perceptions of women’s abilities to perform certain roles. These stereotypes can hinder women from pursuing careers in traditionally male-dominated positions as well as harassment or discrimination at sea, which can include sexual harassment, unequal treatment, and isolation creating a hostile working environment and may deter women from pursuing maritime careers.
Some others may be safety issues due to inadequate facilities and accommodations for women on ships such as separate sleeping quarters, restrooms, or changing area which compromises both safety and privacy amidst several other challenges that requires attention.
Policy and Education
Inadequate policies, pay disparities, and a lack of recognition still plague the maritime industry. To bridge the gender gap, maritime institutions should introduce more courses that cater for women’s interests and talents. Entrepreneurship courses can empower women to engaged in maritime-related businesses.
The maritime industry should adopt a holistic approach to education, recognizing the contributions of women across various sectors like fisheries, renewable energy, tourism, and technology. Industry-academia collaborations can drive research and development for industry-based solutions.
Empowering women in maritime requires investment in technology, advocacy, and mentorship. Companies that support women, like Hafnia partnering with educational institutions, deserve recognition. Improved diversity, equality, and inclusion are essential both onshore and offshore.
Creating flexible work environments and providing mental health support are key to ensuring women’s success in maritime careers. Work-family life balance should be a priority.
It’s time to make the maritime industry more visible and attractive to women. Women must support each other, persevere, and stay focused on their goals. As Margaret Thatcher wisely said, “If you want something done, ask a woman.” It’s time to empower women in maritime and set sail toward a brighter, more inclusive future for the industry.
WRITTEN BY: Mabel Delassie Awuku – Information Services Department