Women in Maritime

The Islander – May 2017

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greater diversity in senior positions improves decision making

Women in Maritime 

The problem is not exclusively within the maritime sector. The UK has recently brought in legislation requiring businesses with in excess of 250 employees to publish gender pay gap figures, with average women’s salaries currently standing at 19.1% less than their male counterparts. In order to close the gender gap, both in terms of salaries and also senior positions, organisations have had to ensure that the infrastructure is in place: – child care, career breaks, maternity leave / paternity leave, etc.

“In terms of combating unconscious bias, shore side companies have been training their senior staff (typically male) on this subject and unfortunately the outcomes are disappointing. Not only is the training de-motivational, the results are less than inspiring. ”Paul Vanderbroeck Senior consultant for Impact Crew and expert in Women in leadership.

Much of recruitment within the industry is modelled on history and who in the past has satisfactorily fulfilled this role? Only last week I heard of an owner looking for a new captain and the requirement was quite specific. Strong character, aged 45 plus and from a military background. How many women would fit that criteria! The primary focus is on experience and qualifications, with little concern that the Chief Engineer, for example, will bring the right “culture” to the department.  Decisions often modelled on history of what traditionally made for a great Chief. In addition with the increased demand for qualified engineers, the industry is turning to the merchant sector for new recruits – again a male dominated environment.

Observing crew as they come through to complete their OOW and Master 3000 qualifications, there is a dominance of male versus female completing these courses. Quite typically when running the HELM courses, we will see a room full of guys and if you are lucky, this week there may be a woman amongst them! And they may be there to progress their careers on deck, or just as often to develop themselves for their role on the interior.

When you consider the significant amount of both financial as well as time that needs to be invested to complete these qualifications, and more often than not, crew have to quit a perfectly good job to free themselves up to attend the courses and examinations, is it surprising that many women make the decision not to qualify? You need employed time to gain a return on that investment, and if they are thinking of starting a family will they actually make that return on investment?

Perhaps the challenge is as much around life style. If you want a career and a family, organisations ashore are having to think creatively to ensure they are employing women in the board room. The stereo typical “tough as nails” female executive, removed of all childcare duties, is gradually starting to wane. However, where is the flexibility if your job involves working on board? The industry is moving increasingly to rotation for more senior positions, but it is still a far cry from the regular as clockwork rotation that the cruise ships employ. Aboard a superyacht, if you want rotation as a senior, you will typically need to have a fair amount of experience and qualifications to justify it to your bill payers. So if a woman would like a family, she will need to have focussed on her career for some years, qualified, take time out to have a child and then hopefully find a good rotational position…. What are the chances?!

With plenty of young talent snapping at your heels for your job, where is the momentum from within the industry to be flexible to the needs of women?

“The benefit of more women forming part of the leadership selection pool, is increasing the diversity and quantity from which to select and employ. It has been proven that greater diversity in senior positions improves decision making, quality of business management and performance. In addition increasing the leadership mix, will also be more reflective of society today and create a more natural feel on board.” Paul Vanderbroeck Senior consultant with Impact Crew and expert in Women in Leadership

From Impact Crew’s – Crew turnover survey, 64% of junior crew left their positions due to the poor leadership they experienced, something needs to change. Increasing the diversity pool from which to select the leaders will be one of the factors that will impact on this figure. Improving the quality of leadership aboard would be another. Contact us to find out how we can support you on your leadership journey.