SATURDAY 18 May was International Day for Women in Maritime – a day recognising the immense contribution of the women in our industry. The theme this year is Safe Horizons: Women Shaping the Future of Maritime Safety.

Now in its third year, International Day for Women in Maritime is an annual initiative of the International Maritime Organization. The intent is to promote the recruitment and sustained employment of women in the industry, raise their profile and address the existing gender imbalance.

“The goal is not just to honour women’s successes, but also to advocate for equal opportunities and to unlock the full potential that a diverse workplace offers,” IMO secretary general Arsenio Dominguez said in a video message.

He said the day also raises awareness of the challenges women face in the industry, such as discrimination, disparities and limitations in regard to career opportunities.

“Let us not be complacent; there remains much work to be done,” Mr Dominguez said.

“We must lead by example, serving as role models striving to create inclusive, empowering and safe working environments for women.”

The Australian maritime community held various events around the country in the leadup to 18 May, drawing strong turnouts representing all genders and levels of leadership.

On Thursday 16 May, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, WISTA Australia and The Nautical Institute of South East Australia joined forces to host a special event in Fremantle.

The hybrid gathering featured a panel discussion, led by Jillian Carson-Jackson, about exposing more women to maritime career pathways, creating safe and respectful working environments, how industry can support change.

Panellists Lisa Williamson, Fremantle Ports; Michelle Booth, AMSA; Michaela Moss, Port of Brisbane; and John Lloyd, The Nautical Institute responded to a steady flow of stimulating and challenging questions from participants, ranging from the issues with misleading job descriptions to the role of technology in supporting diversity.

Ms Williamson said: “We’re on a very early journey in maritime, and it’s an exciting time, so I think the International Day for Women in Maritime is the key to that moving forward.”

And Ms Moss said: “This is our opportunity to again highlight and raise and come up with solutions that are about women, for women, and it’s groups like this that can really start to make headway in that area.”

On the other side of the country, in Melbourne on 15 May, Shipping Australia and WISTA hosted an industry luncheon featuring a discussion between My-Therese Blank, Maersk; Vedran Muratbegovic, Wallenius Wilhelmsen; and Stephanie Pickett, GeelongPort

Ms Blank told guests that it is time for the industry to move away from “mentoring” to “sponsoring” to help advance the careers of female executives, according to SAL’s summary of the event.

She said maternity policy could be reviewed so that, rather than women simply be given time off, they could continue to work so that they could continue to maintain their skills.

Ms Pickett spoke of development plans for women and how this could be worked into corporate planning to make women feel safe. She encouraged women to challenge the assumptions of traditional gender roles, and to be willing to put their hands up for positions that may at the first glance be beyond their existing skillset.

IMO also held an online symposium from its London headquarters on Friday 17 May, from 1430 until 1730, concluding with the Gender Equality Award ceremony (Sydney time, that’s 2330 on Friday until 0230 on Saturday).

More information about the program is available on the IMO website.