IMPEDIMENTS to women joining the maritime workforce were on the agenda at the “Inspiring Women in Maritime” Cruise Ship Luncheon, held Wednesday on P&O Cruise’s Pacific Explorer while it was at berth at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal.
A panel of four women in the industry spoke about their experiences working in maritime, and some of the obstacles they overcame.
One issue that was raised is a lack of role models in the industry. Holly Saunders, a ferry skipper who works on Sydney Harbour, said she hoped she could be role model.
“I quite often have little girls come up to me and say they want to be a skipper,” she said.
“And, that makes me happy.”
Deputy Sydney harbour master and Port Authority of NSW general manager operations Jeanine Drummond was also on the panel, and she discussed the dearth of women in the international shipping industry.
“In Australia, we have less opportunity to influence the gender diversity in traditional sea-bound roles due to the lack of Australian registered ships,” she said.
This, in turn, she said, leads to a lack of qualified candidates for the higher level shore based jobs in the maritime industry.
“We’re in the position now where we need to be looking at innovative and non-traditional career paths to see what opportunities there are to move people through the skills and gain the competency that is required to move into those shore-based roles,” Ms Drummond said.
Another member of the panel, Justine O’Connell, works on the wharves for DP World Australia. She said in the stevedoring world, there are some jobs that are impossible for women to do safely just because men tend to be physically stronger, such as container-lashing operations on ships. However, she said, female stevedores could be valuable members of the team performing other tasks.
And the fourth member of the panel was P&O hotel director Melissa Yates, who described cruise ship work as quite gender diverse. However, she said the cruise sector could attract an even more diverse workforce by addressing scheduling issues and offering pensions.
The luncheon was organised by the Nautical Institute under its Women in Maritime Initiative. The major sponsor of the luncheon was Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises, and the Port Authority of New South Wales was the partnering sponsor.