Maritime Industry Sees Progress in Gender Balancing

May 17, 2024

As the IMO celebrates International Women in Maritime Day this month, the maritime industry is starting to see some progress in bringing greater gender balance to its ranks.

The shipping industry has traditionally been heavily male-dominated. Shipping crews have for most of history been predominantly male, and with those reaching senior management positions later in their careers typically having served at sea at some point earlier, setting up a pipeline of female candidates for senior positions is a slow process.

This is a situation that is increasingly problematic for the shipping industry as it seeks to project a modern appearance and attract new talent.

But some progress is already evident. While the BIMCO/ICS 2021 seafarer workforce report showed just 1.2% of the global workforce was female that year, the outright numbers showed 24,059 women serving as seafarers, up by 45.8% since 2015.

The bunker industry is in a slightly more balanced state, with an estimated 10% women in its workforce, according to the BIMCO/ICS 2021 report, 9% in core positions. Recruitment firm ARM suggests slightly higher female involvement, at about 26% worldwide, 15% in lower-level positions and 9% in mid- or senior-level roles.

The Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA International) now has more than 5,100 female professionals in its network, and the IMO has helped to set up eight Women in Maritime Associations across Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific.

The situation is visibly improving in how the industry presents itself in public as well. All-male panels at shipping and bunker conferences – historically the norm – are now rare enough to attract comment when they do occur, and far more female maritime executives are now quoted in the media.

Here at Glander International Bunkering, 33% of our employees are women as of 2024, and 25% of leadership roles are held by women. In the 2022/23 financial year, 33% of all promotions were given to women.

The challenge for the industry now is to ensure that the pipeline for female candidates to progress to senior positions keeps widening, and that the traditional barriers to women taking up these positions are lowered. As a truly global enterprise, the maritime industry must present itself as offering opportunity fairly to everyone.