Women in Leadership: Paths Through Education - Webinar

March 8 is annually recognized as International Women's Day (IWD) and the World Maritime University’s (WMU) annual IWD seminar took place online this year to mark the occasion. Invited keynote speakers and panelists discussed the topic  “Women in Leadership: Paths Through Education”, addressing the challenges and opportunities of promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women in education as well as within the broader context in the framework of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

Top Left to Right: Ms Allison Webb, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Ms Lena Dyring
Middle Left to Right: Dr Zhen Sun, Ms Ellen Johannesen, Professor Ronan Long
Bottom Left to Right: Professor Max Mejia, Ms Fatu Shaw, Ms Laura Sanchez

Achieving Gender Equality is one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It provides a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all". In her welcome remarks, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of WMU, emphasized that despite the many advances in gender equality over the past century, there is still much work to be done. “We must continue to fight for women’s empowerment on all levels and in every field. A crucial tool to achieve this is through education and training. Investing in people, especially women, means investing in the Future We Want,” she said.

The gender gap in the maritime and ocean industry remains significant. Women account for about 2 per cent of the total seafaring population, and the latest Global Ocean Science Report (GOSR) 2020 revealed that women continue to be underrepresented in ocean science, particularly in the highly technical categories.

Keynote speakers included Ms Allison Webb, Lead, United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and Ms Lena Dyring, Director, Cruise Operations at Norwegian Seafarers' Union (NSU) and the women's representative on the ITF Seafarer Section Committee.

Ms Webb spoke about Canada’s focus on empowering women as part of the Ocean Decade which provides the opportunity to leverage expertise to reverse the decline in ocean health by generating science needed to support sustainable development of our shared ocean. Four key actions include elevating female leaders at all levels from entry to senior levels, hosting events that promote gender equity, raising gender equality as an important issue across all work in the Oceans Decade, collecting data and developing metrics for gender equity to ensure goals are understood and funding projects both within and outside of Canada that advance gender equity such as the good work done in collaboration with the WMU.

Ms Dyring addressed Empowering Women Leaders Through Education. She emphasized that for a sustainable maritime future, the gender gap must be closed saying, “Equal access to education is key, and although it has been said before, it is too important not to be repeated.” She emphasized the maritime industry cannot afford to ignore 50% of the workforce, particularly in a COVID-19 world where qualified individuals will be necessary to guide the industry forward in a sustainable way.

Keynote remarks were followed by a panel discussion on the theme of Women in Leadership: Paths Through Education. The panel emphasized the need for inclusion of women at all levels of decision making, and that education is a path to ensuring that is possible, but that everyone has an important role to play in ensuring the advancement of gender equality. 

Panellists included Professor Max Mejia, Director of the PhD Programme & Associate Academic Dean, World Maritime University, Ms. Ellen Johannesen, PhD Candidate, "Empowering Women for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development" Programme, World Maritime University (funded by DFO Canada), Ms. Fatu Shaw, MSc Student (funded by NSU) & President of WMU Women's Association (WMUWA), and Ms. Laura Sanchez, WMU MSc student. The webinar was moderated by Dr. Zhen Sun, Co-Principal Investigator of the "Empowering Women for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development" Programme, World Maritime University. 

A total of 387 participants from 42 countries registered for the event that was opened beyond WMU Alumni to general registration from the public. A survey of the participants revealed that 84 per cent were female. This highlights an important point regarding gender equality, that the conversation must be broader than largely among women and a minority of men. Gender equality is critical for a sustainable future, and everyone has a role to play in advancing equality.

To access the recorded webinar, click here.

About International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is annually recognized on 8 March, celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. IWD has been observed since the early 1900s and was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations in 1975.

The International Women's Day (IWD) 2021 theme is "Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World". The pandemic crisis has highlighted the centrality of women's contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry.

To uphold women's rights and fully leverage the potential of women's leadership in pandemic preparedness and response, the perspectives of women, in all of their diversity, must be integrated in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes in all spheres and at all stages of the pandemic response and recovery.

A key empowerment tool for women in leadership is education. The COVID-19 crisis has impacted women's opportunities to access the education and training required to build paths towards leadership roles. The World Maritime University is committed to work with our partners and donors to continue promoting the empowerment of women through our research and education programmes.

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