March 08, 2024

Celebrating International Women's Day with The Seafarers' Charity

At The Seafarers' Charity, we are dedicated to supporting all individuals in the maritime industry, regardless of gender. On International Women's Day, we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring welfare needs of women who work at sea are acknowledged and addressed, recognising their vital contributions to the industry.

The Seafarers' Charity's Chief Executive, Deborah Layde, exemplifies this dedication as she currently chairs Maritime UK's Women in Maritime Network. This network unites leaders from across the maritime sector to address gender fairness, equality, and inclusion within the maritime sector. It aims to identify practical steps to increase the number of women in maritime, particularly within senior roles across shipping, ports, marine, and business services industries.

At The Seafarers' Charity, we are very proud of the achievements of our female members of staff and Trustees who are all an integral part of our charity. We also take immense pride in supporting organisations such as Salute Her UK, Safer Waves, and Women in Fisheries. Salute Her UK provides essential support services, including trauma-informed mental health therapy and holistic care, to women veterans, ensuring they have a voice in service design and delivery. Safer Waves offers crucial support and information to merchant seafarers who have experienced sexual violence or gender discrimination while working at sea. Additionally, the Women in Fisheries network provides a platform for women across the fishing industry to connect and support each other.

Our dedication to addressing the specific challenges faced by women in the maritime industry also extends to research initiatives. We previously funded a research project conducted by the Seafarers International Research Centre at Cardiff University, focusing on the welfare needs of women working on cargo ships. This study aims to better understand the unique challenges women seafarers encounter and identify ways to enhance welfare services to better support their needs.

Furthermore, we actively engage in facilitating discussions and webinars to promote women's safety and well-being at sea. Last year, in collaboration with the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA), we hosted a webinar to begin the discussion on what more can maritime welfare charities do to support the safety and welfare needs of women working at sea.

This year, on 9 April, we are hosting a webinar with The Nautical Institute to promote women's safety at sea. We'll delve into creating psychologically safe workplaces, addressing unacceptable behaviours in male-dominated environments, and providing support and resources for women in an industry lacking female leadership and perspective.

As we celebrate International Women's Day, we are honoured to share inspiring insights from our women Trustees:

Debbie Cavaldoro

Every industry needs diversity of thought, and that can only come through employing people with different experiences, different backgrounds, and different personalities. If you put the same in, you get the same out. And in today’s world, standing still is going backwards, so diversity is no longer a ‘nice to have’; it’s essential for ongoing business success.

Everyone can achieve anything, and it's important to encourage people to get out of their own way. If a gobby Essex girl who left school after GCSEs can become a CEO, then what’s stopping anyone else!

I’m not the only female in the room nearly as often as I used to be. At the last LISW event at Mansion House, it was absolutely packed with women and we had an absolute blast together before being thrown out by security because literally everyone else had left the building! It’s our time.

Monica Kohli

When I started in maritime in the last century – I used to be one of a handful of women among a sea of black suits at maritime events. When I walked into meetings it was rare to see another woman in the room. However, in the last few years, I have seen a sea change in the industry.

Now, not only do I see young women in the crowd, but I see them loud and confident and vocal. They are present and make themselves heard.

I would like to think that the work of generations of women in demanding a voice in the industry is now bearing fruit as we see women in the industry not just in entry roles, and mid-management, but also shattering the glass ceiling in various sectors. And we all still have a role to play in being visible role models for different aspects of maritime.

Natalie Shaw MBE

Reflecting on my journey in the maritime sector, I've witnessed a notable shift towards greater inclusion of women. Organisations are increasingly recognising the value that women bring to the table, not only in terms of their skills and expertise but also their unique perspectives. This inclusion has led to more diverse teams, enhanced collaboration, and ultimately, better outcomes for the industry as a whole. However, there's still work to be done to ensure that all women have equal opportunities to thrive in maritime careers.

Surgeon Rear Admiral Fleur T. Marshall KHP

I joined the Royal Navy only four years after women started serving at sea. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had an extremely fulfilling career serving at sea on maritime operations around the globe – from the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic, from San Francisco to Shanghai across a range of ships.

There are women serving throughout the Medical Services at every level. I am now part of the Senior Leadership Team of the Defence Medical Services and hope this inspires others to maximise the opportunities available to fulfill their potential.

At The Seafarers’ Charity, we firmly believe that the welfare needs of women who work at sea are as important as those of their male colleagues, regardless of their minority status - IMO statistics revealed that only 2% of the global seafarers' workforce are female. We are committed to championing their well-being and success, and we invite you to join us in celebrating the invaluable contributions of women at sea, not only on this International Women's Day but every day.