Maritime sector: What to adapt from sectors acing gender equality - Hindustan Times

Maritime sector: What to adapt from sectors acing gender equality

ByHindustan Times
May 18, 2023 10:54 AM IST

This article is authored by Niels H Bruus, vice president and head of marine people and culture, Maersk Fleet Management & Technology.

The maritime sector is one of the oldest and most important industries in the world, responsible for over 90% of global trade. It encompasses a wide range of activities, including shipping, ports, marine engineering, and offshore industries. As an international shipping company, we have seen the maritime sector evolve over time, and with it the need for greater gender equality. While progress is being made, there is still a long way to go before we reach a point of parity. Women make up only an estimated 1.2% of the global seafarer community. The lack of diversity holds back innovation, progress and growth within the maritime industry.

Maersk (Hanaa Habib / REUTERS) PREMIUM
Maersk (Hanaa Habib / REUTERS)

Given the limited opportunities for women to break into the sector - whether it is lack of educational or professional development opportunities or discriminatory hiring practices - women are often left behind perpetuating a culture of inequality. In order to remain competitive and meet the demands of the 21st century, the maritime sector needs to adapt and embrace new approaches, including those from sectors that have made strides in improving gender equality such as technology, finance and health care.

Globally, women’s contribution towards success across sectors has been highlighted over the years. In around half of G20 members, the decline in the gender gap is in line with the expected progress towards meeting the 2025 goal of a 25% reduction in the gender gap in each country from its value in 2012. In India, a paradigm shift is observed in reorienting India’s goals for economic growth, as the dream of an Atmanirbhar Bharat is aligned to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recently articulated vision of women-led nation building during Women’s Day.

The key to success in some sectors has been to focus not only on gender equality but on creating a diverse and inclusive culture, policies and encouraging more women to participate. There are a number of initiatives that have been implemented across industries. First and foremost, it is essential to promote an inclusive and diverse culture. By actively promoting and supporting women in maritime careers, the industry can tap into a wider talent pool and benefit from diverse perspectives and skills. Second, providing equal opportunities for career advancement and leadership roles is essential. By implementing transparent and unbiased promotion and selection processes, the maritime industry can ensure that women have equal access to higher positions. Third, mentorship and networking programmes can play a significant role in supporting women's career development and creating a supportive community. Fourth, addressing gender biases and stereotypes is necessary. The industry should challenge and eliminate gender-based assumptions to create a level playing field. Finally, implementing family-friendly policies and flexible work arrangements can help retain and attract women in the maritime sector by acknowledging and accommodating their unique needs and responsibilities. By adopting these lessons, the maritime industry can make significant progress towards achieving gender equality and unlocking the full potential of its workforce.

The industry is currently heading towards greater digitalisation and automation to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This shift is creating a demand for skilled workers with technical and digital competencies. Automation and robotics have transformed the maritime industry, making it possible to perform tasks that were once done manually or required a significant amount of human intervention. Digitalisation has revolutionised the way the maritime industry operates, enabling companies to gather and analyse data to make more informed decisions. Additionally, the industry is increasingly recognising the importance of sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint by progressing towards sustainable technologies, such as alternative fuels, wind power, and electric propulsion.

The maritime sector can also benefit from women's unique skills and perspectives. Companies with greater gender diversity generally also perform better financially and are more innovative. By encouraging gender equality in the industry, the maritime sector can benefit from a broader range of skills, ideas, and experiences, leading to better decision-making and, ultimately, improved performance.

The maritime sector is transitioning and will require a collective effort to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment as it moves forward. By adopting the learnings from sectors that have excelled in gender equality, the maritime industry can begin to address gender disparities, foster a more inclusive environment and can attract and retain more women and benefit from their unique skills and perspectives. The government in India too has taken many positive steps to make this sector more gender diverse with initiatives such as leadership programmes and education grants. It is also imperative to make gender sensitisation training mandatory and create a common standard for maritime training institutes to ensure that women are treated, feel welcomed and have equal access to career prospects. Ultimately, the sector has the potential to become a leader in achieving equality, fairness and sustainability - three important cornerstones for a successful, modern maritime industry.

This article is authored by Niels H Bruus, vice president and head of marine people and culture, Maersk Fleet Management & Technology.

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