On board with gender equality

25 June 2019

On 25 June, we celebrate the Day of the Seafarer. The theme for the year is “I am on board with gender equality”; encouraging everyone, male or female, to show their solidarity for gender equality in seafaring.

Shipping has historically been a male-dominated industry; however, both the IMO and ILO have made great efforts to promote women’s employment in the maritime transportation sector. This year, they have chosen the topic “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”.

Today, women form around 40 per cent of the global workforce. Women seafarers however, consist of only two per cent of the total number of seafarers worldwide, creating a need for the shipping industry to bridge this gender gap.

Providing a level playing field

Although there has been a slow increase in the number of female seafarers worldwide, there are many countries still plagued by an old-fashioned approach from shipowners, who prefer to have “male seafarers in supervisory, managerial or officer roles.”

Dante Elpedes, Head of Höegh Fleet Services Philippines (HFSP) says,

HFSP remains one of the companies in the Philippines which accommodates female seafarers. We promote gender equality and sensitivity, by providing a level playing field when hiring seafarers, which is based on competence and not gender.

In HFSP, women seafarers make up three per cent of the total seafarer pool which is above the global two per cent average.

Prejudice and abuse

Another hindrance for women pursuing a career at sea, is the belief that they might have to deal with sexual harassment, abuse or bullying. In Höegh Autoliners we have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination and consider any form of harassment and bullying a very serious issue.  

Dante says, "For all new seafarers joining our vessels for the first time, we conduct a special briefing during the pre-departure meeting, to outline our zero tolerance on harassment. Everyone is also reminded about our stance on this matter at succeeding briefings. The company also treats all complaints of harassment and bullying seriously and in strict confidence.”

An industry facing change

Ongoing campaigns from organisations such as the ILO and IMO are instrumental in bringing about progress. The Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) also works specifically to help women achieve management level roles in the maritime industry. Today, the networking organisation has over 3,000 individual members from 40 countries.

Strong role models

To encourage more women to join the industry, it is also imperative that they have good role models to change the status quo and inspire new generations of young professionals to join the ranks. One such individual is Höegh’s first female Filipino Chief Officer; Monalisa Alejandrino, who is inspiring other women to believe in themselves and pursue their dream of becoming a seafarer.