Achieving Gender Equality Through Empowering Women in the Maritime Community

Over 350 participants from more than 70 countries around the globe gathered at the World Maritime University (WMU) for the WMU Empowering Women in the Maritime Community Conference from 4-5 April to address the gender gap in the maritime, oceans, ports, fishing and related industries.

The inspirational event identified opportunities to encourage women to pursue careers in the maritime and ocean sectors, and called for action from maritime and other stakeholders in support of achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goal 5 related to gender equality, as a cross-cutting theme. Stakeholders from maritime and ocean sectors shared the breadth of their experience be it in policy making, in ports or at sea. WMU offered neutral ground for lively discussions and a unique networking opportunity.

Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of WMU stated, “With this year’s World Maritime Day theme “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”, the sun is shining on women for 365 days in 2019. We must capture this exceptional momentum and ride this historic wave to make a real impact in an industry that is still largely male dominated. The numbers of women in maritime and ocean professions remain at unacceptably low levels. We, and the global maritime and ocean community, must be the agents for change. We must act now.”

A recurring point of the discussions emphasized that gender equality is not simply an issue for women. Everyone must make an effort at an individual level in order to achieve Goal 5 for gender equality.  In a video message to the conference, IMO Secretary-General, Mr. Kitack Lim said, “The maritime world needs all hands on deck, both male and female, to continue to carry the world’s goods in a clean safe and efficient manner.”

Keynote speaker, Ms. Grete Faremo, UN Under-Secretary General & UNOPS Executive Director stated, “Without the maritime community, the world would not be what it is today. It is simply too important to leave to men only.”

At the close of day one, a joint announcement was made by Dr. Genvieve Béchard, Hydrographer General of Canada on behalf of the Government of Canada and President Doumbia-Henry regarding a recently signed Grant Agreement through which the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) will enable WMU researchers to work on a project entitled “Empowering Women for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development”. The project will look at the role of gender equality and empowerment of women in the conduct and delivery of ocean scientific research, in particular in relation to fisheries, oceanography, hydrography and climate change.

A set of conclusions was drafted as a result of the two-day discussions reflecting the participants’ firm commitment to cooperate, coordinate and collaborate in the development and implementation of gender-responsive policies and related programmes in their respective sectors and areas of responsibility. Among the key points are:


  • enforcing gender-responsive policies
  • updating statistics on women professionals in all sea-related activities
  • promoting role models
  • engaging with children in primary and secondary education to raise awareness of career opportunities in the industry
  • establishing mentoring programmes
  • securing priority funding for gender research
  • emphasizing gender equality as a business case
  • ensuring equal employment opportunities and pay

"The mantle of equality cannot be carried by women alone," stated speaker Birgit Sølling Olsen, 2018 recipient of the International Maritime Prize and former Deputy Director-General of the Danish Maritime Authority. "If not now, when? If not you, who?" she stated.

The Conference was generously sponsored by the International Maritime Organization, The Nippon Foundation, the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, Celebrity Cruises, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency of the United Kingdom, Stena Line and Stena Bulk.

For a full album of photos, click here.

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