Women’s employment in maritime sector is increasing

2024/03/11 at 1:05 PM

Over the last decade, the global shipping industry has undergone a remarkable transformation in supporting diversity and inclusion, i.e. tolerance on many levels, including towards women’s work. This change is not only a matter of social justice but also a strategic imperative for companies that strive to innovate, increase productivity and tap into a wider range of talents and perspectives. These opinions come from abroad. However, they are also related to the situation in the Polish maritime logistics sector. In particular, new data is provided by the Association of Polish Maritime Industries Forum Okrętowe.

Women's employment in maritime sector is increasing

“Ten years ago, the shipping industry faced criticism that it was male-dominated, especially at senior levels. There were visible barriers that made it difficult for women to enter the market”, recalls Eline Muller from Multraship Towage and Salvage, a Dutch towing and rescue company belonging to the Muller Maritime Group, co-owner of, among others, Hamburg Fairplay Towage.

Significant progress has been made since then. These positive changes are confirmed by various initiatives, including the Women in Maritime Shipping programme of the World Maritime Organisation. It is also the result of changes in corporate policy, where the emphasis is on gender equality, racial and ethnic diversity and overall integration. Certainly, new circumstances, such as the growing problem of lack of qualified workers in industrialised countries, also contribute to changes. This forces progress in the diversification of the workforce, especially on the operational side.


“We are proud to have women officers and engineers among our maritime staff but our organisation’s goal is to attract more women to the team both at sea and on land”, emphasises Muller. She points out that increasing not only the representation but also the visibility of women in the maritime industry “is crucial to inspiring younger generations and breaking down gender stereotypes.” While progress has been made, the representation of women in ownership and management positions remains a particular challenge.

In the case of the maritime transport sector, challenges also arise from specific professional requirements, which can lead to natural exclusions. It’s about working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and longer periods at sea. These conditions ‘disproportionately’ affect women with caring responsibilities. Balancing work and family life can be a challenge, especially for people with family commitments. There is also a spoonful of tar. Unfortunately, there are still practices where equal pay is lacking in equality policies.

Feminisation of polytechnics?

Poland is one of the world leaders in terms of the share of women among students in certain fields, such as natural sciences, technology, mathematics and computer science. They currently constitute nearly 36 per cent of students at public technical universities. “This phenomenon has also affected the shipbuilding industry”, says Ireneusz Karaśkiewicz, director of the office at the Association of Polish Maritime Industries Forum Okrętowe.

Just 35 years ago, at the then-Shipbuilding Institute of the Gdańsk University of Technology, the share of women students did not exceed 3 per cent. Currently, it is approximately 30 per cent, and this share is 44 per cent in the recently opened Ship Construction postgraduate studies. “This is a kind of revolution that is taking place before our eyes”, emphasises director Karaśkiewicz.

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