WMU Contributes to Gender Equality Focus at Maritime SheEO Conference

On 16 November, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of the World Maritime University (WMU) delivered the keynote address for the Maritime SheEO conference that took place in Mumbai, India. In her remarks on the topic of Women in Leadership: Paths Through Education, Dr Doumbia-Henry spoke of changing leadership paradigms in the maritime industry. 

Acknowledging the undeniable progress made on women’s empowerment and gender equality over the past century or so, President Doumbia-Henry emphasized there is much more to be done to enable all women and girls to enjoy equal opportunity in all countries around the world. The maritime industry, in particular, is a typically male-dominated field and women still today only account for about 2 percent of the total seafaring population. 

Public awareness of gender equality is on the rise and is included among the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “We have to continue fighting for women’s empowerment at all levels and in every field. A crucial tool to achieve this is through education and training,” said Dr Doumbia-Henry. She highlighted the 2019 Third International Conference on Empowering Women in the Maritime Community hosted by WMU. The Conference, which was attended by 350 participants from 70 countries, identified 17 actions that could be taken to advance gender balance in the maritime and oceans sector. The key conclusions included promoting women role models, engaging with children in primary and secondary education to raise awareness of career opportunities in the industry for women and securing priority funding for gender research.

“We are still very far from providing and ensuring equal opportunities for everyone -  men, women and other genders –  and particularly with respect to women in leadership positions. Governments, Organizations, Companies and other Employers must change their policies and practices to empower and enable more women to take up leadership positions in maritime,” said Dr Doumbia-Henry. “I firmly believe that education and training, especially in science, technology and engineering is a crucial tool to achieve our collective goal and develop leadership skills for women in maritime,” she said.

Dr Doumbia-Henry spoke of the current global crises that could potentially slow progress on taking forward gender equality, and women’s empowerment. “WMU firmly believes that education will create a lasting impact on capacity building in the maritime and ocean industries. Education remains an indispensable tool that will enable a long-term impact on capacity building for women and future leaders in the maritime and ocean industries. Education promotes equality and advances the full and effective participation and equal opportunities for women at all levels of decision-making whether in political, economic, academic, business or public life. We cannot afford to stop this important mission, no matter the difficulties,” she said. 

WMU is keenly focused on increasing women’s participation in access to educational opportunities in the maritime sector, including at the postgraduate level, in order to advance their full participation in the maritime and ocean industries and inspire leadership for a sustainable maritime and oceans future. As WMU continues to improve gender balance in maritime and ocean-related fields in science education and research, female student representation at WMU has improved significantly from 3% in 1983 to more than a third of the intake in the MSc programme delivered in Malmö, Sweden, while the WMU MSc programmes delivered in Shanghai, China, have already achieved milestones for gender parity. 

There is now no turning back on the achievements made to date. Together, with both men and women at the helm, we will ensure that the shipping and ocean industries continue to play their part to achieve gender equality in the maritime and ocean fields. 

To view President Doumbia-Henry's entire keynote address, click here.

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