Removing obstacles that hinder the development of women in the maritime sector is very crucial

The structural and cultural barriers that impede the development of women in the maritime sector must be removed quickly if we are to unlock the potential of the industry as a viable path to job creation and economic growth. This is according to Damian Bellairs, agency director at Marine.

The government has unveiled a program called Operation Phakisa, which is a growth plan for the marine economy that is envisioned to unlock the economic contribution of the sector and increase its contribution to the economy to R177 billion, creating one million jobs by 2033.

Currently, the maritime landscape is still perceived as a male-dominated industry and the participation of women remains low. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), women make up only 20% of the workforce in Member States’ maritime authorities and 29% in industry sub-sectors.

Bellairs explained, “A paradigm shift is needed to achieve the objectives of Operation Phakisa and unlock the economic potential of the maritime sector. This drive for change includes placing more leadership positions in capable women and reviewing internal processes that have slowed the acceleration of women’s development in the sector. Organizations must really commit to the project if they are to succeed. There may be challenges along the way, but ensuring your organization is open to change is an important first step.

He says workplace and gender diversity in leadership is key to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the sector.

“Concerted efforts must be made to identify and remove the physical and social barriers that prevent women from participating in maritime professions. Increasing gender tolerance requires a wider range of innovative ideas from people in many facets of the maritime community,” he said.

He pointed out that Servest Marine has made significant progress in increasing the number of women in leadership positions – 57% of the organisation’s leadership team is made up of women.

Bellairs has confirmed that Servest Marine will partner with other women in the industry to increase these numbers at various levels at Servest and other maritime organisations.

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The sidelining of women in the maritime sector robs the industry of the opportunity to tap into an abundance of talent and innovation, he noted. Evidence suggests that harnessing the potential of women as leaders, economic actors and consumers will result in higher levels of industrialization and sustained growth.

“If more women are allowed to play the same roles as men in the industry, there is a greater opportunity to catapult the sector onto a growth trajectory, which in turn will ensure that it contributes more significantly to GDP. of the country and becomes a catalyst for job creation”, he continued.

He says the industry should highlight the career opportunities available in the maritime sector to improve its value proposition to employers.

These range from marine and ship engineers, deck officers, marine environmentalists, sailors and tug captains.

“As we celebrate Women’s Month in August, we need to ensure that gender stereotypes are broken in the maritime industry, as this is key to encouraging young women to see this as a viable career choice. The industry has traditionally been male-dominated, and if we are to break this trend, we need to promote women who are already successful in their maritime roles. Holistic changes must take place, not only within the maritime sector but also within societies, to create conditions conducive to the inclusion and meaningful participation of women,” he concluded.

Mara R. Wilmoth