Women’s voices set to grow in maritime industry

By Dr. Izyan Munirah Mohd Zaideen, senior lecturer at Faculty of Maritime Studies, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu; WISTA Malaysia committee member.

The maritime sector is one of the most globally significant industries, accounting for roughly 90 percent of global trade, and it offers a diverse range of job opportunities for those looking to experience a new working environment with unlimited career advancement.

Despite the fact that the maritime industry has evolved over time, women’s placement in it has not been well-documented. The maritime industry has long been perceived as male-dominated, and women currently make up less than two percent of the workforce. 

It is critical to reduce gender disparities in maritime professions and to encourage women’s participation in ocean-related jobs. Consistent efforts are needed to seize the moment of recognition in terms of encouragement and support for closing the gender gap.

Women’s roles in the maritime industry are clearly evolving, and the potential for women’s voices to contribute to these areas, particularly in terms of achieving long-term goals, is growing. 

Women’s roles are likely to change as they gain empowerment through active participation in these male-dominated professions. Women are brilliant and deserving of recognition if they are given the opportunity to work and serve in the same capacities as men. 

It is then increasingly important to look beyond the facile view of women as trophy wives and incorporate their experiences and knowledge into decision-making processes. Women can play important roles in sustainable development, and they should be included in policy, governance and decision-making.

As a member of the International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, Malaysia remains committed to promoting sustainable development in order to empower women to tackle the existing gender inequalities in the maritime industry.

Malaysia has indirectly increased its commitment to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Gender Equality) and support work by implementing a strategic approach to improving the role of women as major maritime players.

In fact, the integration of women into social, political, and economic agendas has occurred and consequently, the IMO has recommended that the maritime industry develop women’s human resources vigorously.

Equality between the genders must be achieved instantaneously, not tomorrow. Notwithstanding, sustained efforts are needed to capitalize on the opportunity of recognition in terms of encouragement and support for closing the gender gap.

All women have the right to pursue the education and career of their choice. Recognizing this importance, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) is actively involved in developing human capital and human resources that will assure the maritime industry’s viability.

Education is a top priority in efforts to close the gender gap and UMT has been actively encouraging women to pursue maritime education and consequently maritime careers. A knowledgeable generation is equal to a competitive generation. In line with this realization, UMT is always committed to providing the opportunities for partnership with maritime stakeholders and industry players in order to maintain its ecosystem’s sustainability. 

Thus, several steps have been taken by UMT to meet the needs of future talent, including improving the quality of academic and training programs, and ensuring more equitable learning outcomes.

Greater mentorship and empowerment of women in the maritime industry from a young age, as well as providing them with more role models of females succeeding in the industry, may be the best way forward in the future to lead to greater gender equality.

There are numerous international networking organizations whose mission are to attract and support women at the management level, in the maritime, trading and logistics sectors like the Women in Maritime Associations (WIMAs) and the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA International).

The IMO and WISTA International aim to promote women’s voices in the shipping industry and increase the number of women speakers. The launch of the Maritime Speakers Bureau is another joint project under the IMO-WISTA Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on promoting greater diversity and inclusion through enhanced cooperation activities in the maritime sector. 

Via this platform, women will be able to show their interest in participating in panels, becoming more visible and inspiring others for a sustainable future. The maritime industry is expected to make tremendous strides in the coming decade by increasing the visibility of women leaders who are making bold moves and achieving breakthrough career success.

As a woman in the maritime industry, I am proud of my incredible professional career, which I hope has inspired other women to pursue and achieve their goals. My advice to all young women out there is to commit to learning and to seek out as many opportunities for exposure and experience in the field as possible. And always remember that being authentic will get you far.

Photo credit: iStock/ fizkes

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