Equal Pay Day: The state of gender equality in the maritime sector

Today is Equal Pay Day - the day in the year where, on average, women stop earning money compared to their male colleagues. But how imbalanced is the marine sector?

To mark the day, British Marine CEO, Lesley Robinson, talks to us about how the marine industry is trying to improve gender equality and what work it still needs to do to make its workforce more diverse.

How far have we come?

At British Marine we aim to lead the industry as it addresses the challenges and opportunities that arise from increasing diversity. One of the ways in which we are doing this is by working closely with Maritime UK, Department for Transport (DfT) and the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) on a new project called ‘People Like Me’ – which is for women in the maritime industry.

The project, which launched in autumn this year, provides guidance to help those who recruit staff in the industry improve gender diversity. We’re currently working with the team on the second strand of ‘People Like Me’, which is a public campaign called ‘Maritime and Me’ .

This aims to source case studies which highlight women who work in a wide and diverse range of roles in the various industries within the maritime sector. It’s through steps like this that we can begin to challenge the perception that maritime careers aren’t for women and open up the doors for more women to join us.

All of this isn’t a ‘nice to have’ – having a diverse workforce not only creates a better working environment for all but has also been proven to boost productivity and in turn, increase profitability.

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I know our members are working hard to diversify their workforces. Our association Superyacht UK is now in its fifth year of running the Superyacht UK Young Designer Competition where university design students from across the country take part in a one of a kind superyacht design competition.

Ahead of the competition this year, I was delighted to see former contestant Nadia Lele, now a Structural Engineer at the prestigious design house Olesinski, showcasing engineering within the marine industry as a great career choice for women.

In my experience, role models play a significant part in shaping the perceptions of certain career paths. It’s great to see more young women and girls embark on careers traditionally reserved for men, such as engineering or shipbuilding, but we need to make sure these stories are visible and accessible.

This year at Southampton International Boat Show, powered by Borrow A Boat, we had an array of female sailors taking part in live Q&As and discussing their experiences and we hosted another edition of the popular Women in the Marine Reception. Both promoted equality in the industry and sport.

As part of our British Marine National Agenda, we are focused on developing Skills and People and this includes raising awareness of career pathways for women. Encouraging and enabling young women to pursue careers in the marine industry at the start of their careers is so important and apprenticeships can play a significant role in this. The annual British Marine Apprenticeship Graduation celebrates women at the start of their careers in the marine industry.

This year, we saw marine apprentice Caitlin Davies graduate from our member company, Princess Yachts. Caitlin impressed the team at Princess and was awarded their Apprentice of the Year. She has since gone on to become a fully qualified member of the crew and Caitlin now actively encourages more female apprentices into the organisation. It’s through steps like these that businesses will see the positive effect that having a more diverse workforce brings.

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How far is there still to go?

Whilst progress has been made, the marine industry still has a long way to go. Today, women represent only 2% of the world’s 1.2 million seafarers and 94% of these female seafarers are working in the cruise industry. The 2018 Maritime HR Association salary survey data shows men earn almost 44% more than women. Men are also more likely to receive a bonus, with those being about 60% higher than those paid to female employees.

This presents a significant challenge to the marine industry – that we must work together in order to address. We must use opportunities like today to highlight how far we’ve come, but also how far we have to go.

Key to making progress is a better understanding our specific sector. This is often supported through research, such as the salary survey currently being undertaken by leading industry recruiters Marine Resources. The survey, the first of its kind, is expected to provide valuable insight into women’s pay across the sector. Ultimately, the more we know about our sector the better equipped we are to facilitate the change that’s needed.

About the author

Lesley was appointed CEO of British Marine in mid-2018. Prior to joining, Lesley was Managing Director at MDL Marinas, Europe’s leading Marina operator. Previous to this, her commercial career has spanned leisure, consumer goods, media and IT and she was also a Director of the Money Advice Service, leading corporate services and heading up the Service’s debt advice programme in the UK.


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