Stories of sailing the world's oceans on large sailing ships have marked maritime history in which men have always played the leading role. We often forget that the significant part of this history created women as well.
In the early 1700s, a woman on a ship was considered to bring misfortune. Fortunately, superstition has not prevented many brave and adventurous women from realizing their dream and paving the way for today's women in the maritime industry.
The first woman was sent to sea by Russia in 1930. Her name was Anna Ivanovna Shchetinina and she became the first female captain in 1935. This move has motivated other developed countries to follow this example.
A woman marine engineer, first in the UK, was Victoria Drummond. In 1918, Victoria began her career as an apprentice in Perth.
It was the first step of a journey to become the first female marine engineer in the UK. During World War II, she earned honors for bravery at sea. A century later, Victoria’s personal battle to conquer the maritime industry has yet to translate into gender equality.
It is important to mention other women who have contributed and helped breaking down prejudices and opening opportunities to other women working in the maritime industry:
Grace O ’Malley (1530.-1603.) - one of the most famous women in the maritime world, better known in history as the“ pirate ”woman;
Ann Chamberlyne (1667-1691) - the first female sailor in British history;
Jeanne Baret (1740-1807) - the first woman to sail the world disguised as a man, calling herself Jean;
Skipper Thuridur (1777-1863) - one of the world's earliest woman sailors and a celebrated fishing captain in Iceland;
Mary Patten (1837-1861) - sailed from Cape Horn to San Francisco at the age of 19. She was the first female commander of an American merchant vessel;
Helen de Pourtales (1868-1945) - Swiss sailor who won a gold medal as part of the men's sailing team;
Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz (1936-) - the first woman to sail the world alone on her sailboat "Mazurek";
Naomi James (1949-) - was the first woman to sail the world via Cape Horn alone in 272 days;
Kay Cottee (1954-) - the world's best sailor; sailed the world in her ship "Blackmores First Lady" at the age of 34.
Men have firmly dominated the maritime, but women have brought a softer side to this industry.
The number of women working in this industry is minimal, and efforts to encourage women to work in this industry are almost non-existent. One of the biggest challenges for women in this area is to combat the perception that such jobs are only for men.
Although there are fewer naval officers in the maritime world, shipowners are still not ready to further encourage women to opt for a maritime profession.
A tiny number of women opt for such occupations, and the support that some shipowners give to the women employment is related exclusively to gender quotas. All of this is still on a symbolic level.
Out of a total of 1.5 million seafarers, women make up only about 2% of the world’s maritime workforce.
Roles occupied by women were always seen as support services, but now they started to perform core functions of ports and management.
Despite growing awareness of gender imbalance, women's progress and employment in shipping, especially at sea, is still slow.
“More than ever, there is a need for women in maritime and that has to be recognized. But substantial, effective change needs time, collaboration and patience”, says Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, president of the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA International) and chief executive of Cyprus-based Tototheo Maritime.
Taking action: Is there a change in sight for the maritime industry
Despite the progress made by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other international organizations, it is still unlikely that most shipping companies will employ women.
However, there are just a few shipping companies that made progress on diversity and hiring more women.
Barriers to women working in the maritime sector are gradually removed, but there is much more to do in this area.
For example, the IMO provides women with access to maritime education and training and by creating professional networks for women in different regions around the world.
When it comes to hiring and promoting women in management positions, more positive examples from practice and more innovative jobs are needed to attract the next generation's best talent.
“This is an industry that is still seen as a world for men. We’ll start to see little progress quickly, but big changes will take up to 15 years”, said Susan Cloggie-Holden, a chief officer and a female champion for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA).
How to attract more women into the maritime sector?
The key is in education and stronger support for women to continue working and thriving in this sector.
In 1988, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) launched Women in Maritime Programme. There are seven regional associations in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Caribbean, Latin America and Pacific, covering 70 countries and organizing regular outreach events.
World Maritime Day theme for 2019 was "Empowering Women in the Maritime Community". This provided an opportunity to raise awareness of gender equality and highlight the important contribution of women worldwide to the maritime sector.
The Women in Maritime program has many activities that offer support to the Women in Maritime Associations.
“Access to the regional associations could narrow some of the institutional barriers and cultural stigma that women who enter the maritime industry face,” says Helen Buni, program lead in the IMO.
Radhika Menon, India's first female merchant navy captain, launched the International Women Seafarers’ Foundation to raise awareness of the profession, protect women’s rights and provide support.
Gender-related challenges are still an issue because it is difficult for women to balance work and private life, and to get access to leadership opportunities. In choosing maritime as their career, women generally do not have adequate support from family and society in general.
It is precisely the lack of support that is one reason women are disappointed and eventually give up their maritime careers.
There is awareness in this field, but the maritime industry hasn’t made much progress in the past 25 years.
Major shipping companies, such as Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, recognize the need to diversify the workforce and support women.
For example, Hapag-Lloyd's latest cohort of 25 marine apprentices includes seven young women (28%), on a three-year traineeship in Germany to become a ship mechanic, nautical officer or technical officer.
Attracting women is also a priority for Danish conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk. “Maritime is a male-dominated industry, so we do have a challenge bringing female talent to join us", the company stated.
Historic Navigation: The first ship operated by 26 women
The first voyage of the ship led by women began just on Women's Day, March 8th. Twenty-eight women held most of the high-ranking officers and management positions on the cruiser "Celebrity Edge".
This historic event aimed to increase gender equality in the maritime profession. Celebrity Cruises company, which organized the trip, claims that since 2015, the number of deck officers has risen from 3% to 22%.
American Captain, Kate McCue, led a team of 26 women from 17 different states in top management positions in the ship's command structure of the cruiser "Celebrity Edge".
“We are all motivated to reduce the gender gap in the company. Over the last few years, we have worked hard to hire as many women as possible into our industry”, said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of the company.
When it comes to human resources in maritime and transport, it is considered that these jobs are primarily for men. In the area of maritime and transportation, women are still underrepresented.
Fortunately, today women have the same educational opportunities and are trained to make and implement all decisions and management functions.
Better outcomes for recruitment and retention start with education, training, legislation and by supporting women and men in the maritime industry. It’s moving slowly, but it's going in the right direction.
The sea treats everyone equally and knows neither sex nor gender. The most important thing for the maritime industry is that a person, whether a woman or a man, is educated, competitive and skilled in their work.
Today, there is a growing need for logistics companies to receive more technical training and provide digitized services, so the need for different jobs will become more significant.
The industry must progress towards autonomy. The expertise of the maritime sector will play a significant role in this, so it is time that the gender balance in this industry undergoes real positive changes.
The woman at the top of the digital freight forwarder brand
Just like maritime, freight is one of the most male-dominated industries in the world.
In the freight sector, women are severely under-represented. The whole industry, including warehousing and office roles, employs about 92-94% of men. Gender balance among drivers is almost non-existent; the workforce is 99% white male, with an average age of 54.
Despite statistics, the Hubbig digital platform's leading position is held by a young, educated and successful woman, Dragana Lipovac. For more than 11 years, she worked in two international freight forwarding companies as a sales manager and readily tackled the problems of the freight forwarding industry.
Although the representation of women in maritime and shipping is lower, Dragana has found her place in a male-dominated industry.
She realized that there was room for progress and simplification of complicated procedures in her work and came up with an application that would solve bureaucratic troubles. And thus, Hubbig was born. It is a web platform that allows small and medium-sized freight forwarders to advertise their transportation services.
Hubbig connects haulers, shipping companies, airlines directly with customers, and the user has access to cargo on board, truck and customs clearance process. The application provides insight into all costs, as well as delivery times to individual locations.
The processes in logistics are quite complex and extensive. Different countries require different documents and charge different fees. The idea was to make a user-friendly overview for clients and present everything in one place, and that is precisely what Dragana successfully achieved.
Our mission is to empower and encourage freight forwarders to use technology and allow them to evolve into the forwarders of the digital age. Try Hubbig and find out all the benefits of digital freight forwarding!