Women in shipping

Related to: Gender Equality, Maritime Transport, Women in shipping

Transport is in general a male-dominated sector, but maritime transport is particularly lacking women workers. Only around 2% of officers and 3.5% of ratings available for the EU fleet are female, compared to 22% in transport overall! The ETF’s Maritime Transport Section is committed to work on improving the attractiveness of shipping for female seafarers, and to tackle bullying and harassment at the workplace. 

The ETF is a signatory to the European Platform for Change. This EU initiative aims to build a gender balanced transport sector, by strengthening women’s employment and creating equal opportunities for women and men. Our social partner for shipping, the European Shipowners Association (ECSA), has also signed up and we have already started working together on gender issues in shipping. We are beginning with an overview of the practical problems that women in shipping face, and an investigation of the barriers that stop women taking up training and employment or remaining in employment. Following a successful and well-attended workshop in June 2018, ETF and ECSA have agreed on an ambitious plan of action. 

The players in the sector have many options for long- and short-term actions to improve the gender balance in shipping. Employers should advertise jobs at sea towards a female audience whilst focusing on image building and making career paths clearer. Training policies should also be adapted. Gender inclusive recruitment (including recruitment of women in manager positions) will make it easier to develop further policies that support women to enter and stay in the shipping industry. Such policies could include: increased flexibility in working arrangements so that employees can find better a balance between work life and personal life; improved maternity/paternity leave policies; adaptations to the physical and cultural aspects of the workplace to make it more gender neutral. 

To facilitate the development of such policies, it will be important to offer shipping companies toolkits of ideas and best practices. Changes to working conditions and contracts are an equally important measure, and the European social partners will explore the possibility to achieve a more gender balanced sector by promoting the use of collective bargaining agreements at both company and sectoral levels. 

Last but not least, it is expected that automation will have a big impact on the seafaring workforce and might make the profession more attractive to women. Unions stand ready to explore in what way automation and digitalisation will be an opportunity to boost female employment in shipping. 

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