Women in maritime: Break the bias, don’t let the sky be your limit

Say no to gender discrimination.

By Dr. Izyan Munirah Mohd Zaideen, senior lecturer at Faculty of Maritime Studies, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, and Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association Malaysia committee member.

The very first International Maritime Organization (IMO) International Day for Women in Maritime is being commemorated on May 18 with a gesture of support to and celebrate the role of women worldwide in the maritime industry, which has historically been male dominated.

The pursuit of gender equality tops global agendas, as discriminatory behaviors affect the whole industry. Women make up less than 10 percent of the workforce throughout all maritime industry subsectors.

The day is intended to celebrate and promote the recruitment, retention and sustained employment of women in the maritime sector. The maiden theme, “Training-Visibility-Recognition: Supporting a barrier-free working environment” highlights the essence of the key challenges facing women in maritime professions nowadays.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim, in his keynote message, gave importance to the role women in maritime play to support the transition to a decarbonized, digitalized and more sustainable future.

As a member state of the IMO, Malaysia remains committed to supporting sustainable development to empower women to address the current gender imbalance in the maritime industry. 

To mark the occasion, Malaysia, via the Women in Maritime Association Malaysia, hosted a hybrid national seminar on Strengthening Women’s Network in the Maritime Community in collaboration with the Transport Ministry and Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA). WISTA’s Malaysian chapter was officially launched at the same occasion.

In his message at the launch of the event in conjunction with the International Day for Women in Maritime, Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong remarked that it is time for Malaysian women to embrace the diverse and rewarding career opportunities in the maritime sector. Women in the maritime industry should break the glass ceiling with grace and work together to change the social and cultural bias against them.

Working in the maritime industry is a splendid way to build a long-term career as it is always evolving, vibrant, and demanding. There are a lot of positions the industry can offer. Currently, women have risen to positions of maritime leadership, but there is still a long way from giving and assuring equitable opportunity for all.

Theoretically, education and training are seen to have a long-term influence on capacity building in the maritime industry We must continue to promote gender equality in the maritime sector by ensuring that all women have access to education and training at all levels in order to meet the maritime industry’s growing needs and future demand for skilled manpower.

The maritime industry is a very vast field, welcoming all profiles and skills. A viable maritime industry requires access to a diverse range of talent, which involves encouraging more women to pursue maritime careers. There has been a rise in the number of women graduating from maritime programs at universities and other educational and training institutions.

In line with this realization, the government should always be committed to collaborative effort with maritime stakeholders and industry players to provide equal rights and opportunities for all women in order to maintain its ecosystem’s sustainability as equality in the maritime industry is critical to meeting the needs of future talent.

Enhancing the network is seen as critical for the quality transformation of today’s graduates to increase efficiency by providing them with the most up-to-date professional and practical education and skills. All these initiatives will require integration into the industry-academic network. This demonstrates the importance of corporate participation in the improvement of the current educational system.

Gender equality must become a reality today, not tomorrow. Malaysia has indirectly strengthened its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Gender Equality) and support work by taking a strategic approach to enhancing the contribution of women as key maritime actors.

I desire to motivate all young girls and women to pursue careers in the maritime industry and progress to higher positions. Working as a woman in the maritime industry entails putting several “female unique characteristics” into reality every day, such as adaptability and a commitment orientation. Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders and know that you are the creator of your own destiny.

Photo credit: iStock/ junce

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