THE International Day for Women in Maritime on 18 May is a day dedicated to recognising the contributions of women in the maritime industry.

This year’s celebration comes at a time when the world is experiencing significant changes in the maritime industry. With the emergence of new technologies, the increased demand for sustainability and the need for more diversity and inclusion, women are increasingly taking on prominent roles in the maritime sector.

The theme for this year’s International Day for Women in Maritime is mobilising networks for gender equality. This theme is relevant given the need to address the gender imbalance that has historically characterised the maritime industry.

The 2021 Seafarer Workforce Report from BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping highlighted the extent of the issue, reporting that women make up only 1.2% of the worldwide seafarer workforce. While there are more women than ever working at sea, the overall percentage remains woefully low.

Despite the significant contributions that women have made to the industry, they have traditionally been underrepresented in positions of leadership and decision-making. However, recent years have seen an increasing number of women rising to the top of their fields.


The International Day for Women in Maritime is a chance to celebrate women working in the industry, promote recruitment, retention and sustained employment of women in the maritime sector. It is also an opportunity to raise the profile of women in this amazing industry.

One of the ways the industry is working to empower women is through education and training, creating connections and networks to support diversity, equity, inclusion and acceptance. In Australia we have seen evidence of this through alternative pathway programs and support networks, including WISTA Australia and The Nautical Institute Women in Maritime initiatives.

At a global level the IMO, WISTA network and women in maritime associations provide opportunities for women to connect, share experiences and support each other. These networks create a sense of community and help build relationships to help women navigate the challenges of the industry. Mentorship programs also play a crucial role in helping women to develop the skills and confidence needed to advance in their careers.

Recognising the importance of mentoring and networking, the recently formed Captains Without Borders provides scholarships to ease the cost of school, training and certificates. The non-profit organisation is dedicated to empowering aspiring seafarers to support education, mentorship and industry connections.

The maritime industry is also recognising the importance of diversity and inclusion. As the industry becomes more global and interconnected, it is increasingly important for organisations to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. Women bring unique perspectives and skills to the industry, and their inclusion drives innovation and growth.


Despite the progress that has been made, there is still much work to be done to ensure that women are fully represented and empowered in the maritime industry. One of the biggest challenges that women face is the lack of awareness and understanding of their contributions to the industry. Many people still have outdated stereotypes and misconceptions about women in maritime, which can lead to discrimination and exclusion.

Another challenge is the need for more flexible working arrangements that can accommodate the demands of family life. Women are often forced to choose between their careers and their families, and the maritime industry has historically been known for its long hours and extensive travel requirements. To attract and retain women in the industry – and indeed to attract and retain the next generation in general in the industry – organisations need to be more flexible in their approach to work-life balance.

Looking to the future, there is reason for optimism about the role women will play in the maritime industry. With the increasing focus on sustainability and environmental protection, there is an ongoing need for diverse leadership in these areas. Women are well-positioned to address these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities presented by new technologies, including digitalisation and automation as we enter Industry 5.0.

The International Day for Women in Maritime is an important opportunity to celebrate the contributions of women in the maritime industry and to reflect on the challenges that they still face. While progress has been made, there is much work to be done to ensure that women are fully represented and empowered.

This article appeared in the May 2023 edition of DCN Magazine