Shipping and the maritime industry have largely remained a male-dominated environment. However, over the past one decade, women have made their presence felt and soldiered ahead braving the odds. FrontM interviewed a woman, who works as a Chief Mate with a liner shipping company, seeking out her views on fair employment opportunities in the industry.

Below are the excerpts of the interview with the veteran Seafarer…

In terms of ethnic origin, religion, race, colour, gender, pregnancy, and/or disability – How have you found the Shipping industry to be fair in terms of Equal Opportunities?

In terms of ethnic origin, religion, race, colour, there is absolutely no discrimination when it comes to employment opportunities. Shipping is one of the most global professions in all aspects and thus all nations are at equal pedestals. Being a mariner, you get an opportunity to work with people from everywhere.

As far as gender-based biases and pregnancy are concerned, it is how you see it. It is true that men are preferred over women but not because they are females, it is because of the harsh conditions that a mariner has to adjust to. A pregnant lady is in need of continuous medical care and attention, on a merchant ship it is not possible to provide this level of care. Sometimes medical help may take a while to reach you and this can be fatal. So, pregnant ladies on board are definitely a wrong choice but if we talk about female mariners – things have changed!

Shipping has been a male-dominated industry. How has it evolved over the years to offer fair employment opportunities to women? Can we expect more women in the industry, in the near future?

Right now – the world is going through a phase of human development where the lines between gender are blurring. The same stands true for the Shipping Industry. Women are proving their mettle in every position and seeing a woman on board is no more an exception. Yes, there is still a dominance of the male mariners and the percentage of female mariners is low but the good news is that it is changing. It is a social gradual shift but the graph is surely moving upwards.


Have you come across instances of men being chosen over women for doing a task, onboard, not for competence, but gender?

Yes, but I would not call it gender bias. It is scientifically proven that there are some jobs like heavyweight management, exposure to high temperatures, and such tasks that impact a woman’s health more adversely than a man’s health. These decisions of choosing men over women for such tasks are taken on a very logical ground and mostly happen around the engine room crew. On the deck-side, there is absolutely no bias as there are no threatening tasks. It is not biased but decisions are taken whilst keeping the best interests of the crew at heart.


Being a team leader, a Chief Mate, have you ever experienced insubordination, and/or an instance where your standpoint is not given due importance – for being a woman?

Not at all. A ship is a very disciplined place. Ranks are respected and all rules, regulations, and codes are strictly followed. Once you take charge on the ship you are not male or female – you are the ranks and it is sacrosanct. The jobs for every rank are defined and performed to the word.


Today, women represent only 1.2% percent of the global seafarer workforce. How do you see this improving in the next five years?

Yes, definitively yes. As I have said earlier – the graph is going up. There is more awareness, more facility, and more openness. The Internet and other technological developments are very much responsible for this welcome change. Shipping is no more being disconnected from the world and we are looking forward to better connectivity in the coming future. So, yes there is going to be a drastic change in the next five years.

Anything else you would like to share….

Yes. I would want the world to look at shipping with an open mind. Encourage seafarers and shipping organizations to bring about gender equality. Everyone can do their bit in talking about the positive changes. One positive comment is worth a million applauses. Let’s move forward – together!


If you have been affected by any of the gender-biased issues raised in this interview you can download the Onship app here to gain access to free advice and support via the 24/7 ISWAN support line today.