Seafaring is a male-dominated profession. At The Seafarers’ Charity we believe that the welfare and support needs of women who work at sea are as important as those of their male colleagues and should not be ignored or neglected just because they are in a minority.

According to the BIMCO/ICS 2021 Seafarer Workforce Report women represent only 1.2% (24,059) of the currently active global seafarer workforce with the majority working in the cruise and yachting sector with very few women working on cargo vessels.

The Mission to Seafarers’ Women Seafarers Report 2022 began an “ongoing discussion” to challenge maritime welfare charities to better understand the needs of women seafarers in order to improve the welfare support provided for women. The report explores some of the broad work and life issues faced by women working at sea onboard cargo ships, cruise ships and professional yachts. Their report recognises that yachts and cruise ships have more women working onboard, although often they are concentrated in roles which are perceived as being ‘women’s work’ such as hospitality and domestic services.

In 2022 The Seafarers’ Charity funded the Seafarers’ International Research Centre at Cardiff University to delve deeper into the real-life experiences of women working onboard male dominated cargo ships. The Port Based Welfare Needs of Women Seafarers is new qualitative research which shares the experiences of 30 women working on cargo ships. Using their own voices and direct quotes from the women, the research reveals a multitude of ways that women are made to feel excluded within the work environment; causing them to feel isolated and vulnerable onboard and fearful of sexual assault and harassment at their place of work.

Photo kindly provided by IMO.

Webinar: Psychological Safety at Sea

On Wednesday 15 May 2024, we hosted a free webinar in partnership with The Nautical Institute on psychological safety for women working at sea. With speakers from WISTA, Safer Waves, and Salute Her, we explored how to create a supportive workplace, foster career growth, and address challenges faced by women at sea. Topics also included transforming company culture, personal experiences, and available support resources.

Webinar: Supporting the Welfare of Women Seafarers

On Wednesday 20 April 2023, The Seafarers’ Charity and the International Christian Maritime Association held 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. Click here for Professor Helen Sampson's presentation and here for the webinar agenda.

New research about women working on cargo ships

New research from the Seafarers’ International Research Centre at Cardiff University reveals the real-life experiences of women working onboard male-dominated cargo ships and their need for welfare support.

Click here to access the report.

Women In Maritime Network

Deborah Layde, Chief Executive of The Seafarers’ Charity is the current Chair of the Women In Maritime Network. The Network brings together leaders from across the maritime sector to identify practical steps to increase the number of women in maritime, and crucially within senior roles across its shipping, ports, marine and business services industries.

UK Women In Fisheries

In fishing, women work in a wider range of roles at sea, and, on land. They are vessel owners, fleet managers, fishers, fishmongers, processors, fishing conservationists, charity workers and trainers in the fishing industry. According to research women also play an important role in maintaining the social fabric of fisheries and nurture the physical and mental wellbeing of fishing families, often at a cost to their own material, social and emotional wellbeing. The Seafarers’ Charity funds the support network for UK Women in Fisheries. Listen to the two Fathom podcasts:

  • Episode 23 – Making Space for Women in Fishing
  • The Female Fisherman