A BUSY year it has been in 2019, a year of awareness of the need to #balanceforbetter in the maritime industry. With women in maritime events spanning the globe, focused social media activity, and articles such as this, the goal has been to move an industry to become conscious of the bias around diversity and inclusion.

With the focus of the IMO World Maritime Day theme on the issue, it seems great progress has been made. Events at the IMO and parallel events around the world, have brought the eyes of the maritime community on women in maritime, and the fact that women still only make up 2% of seagoing personnel. For each meeting that I have attended in 2019 I have tried to get a photo of the women who attend.

So, what does 2% look like?
A selection of photos from the year include the IALA VTS Workshop and meeting held in Busan, South Korea and the IALA VTS Committee meeting held in Saint Germain en Laye, France; a simulation conference held in Perth, WA; The IALA ENAV Committee held in Saint Germain en Laye; the Nautical Institute AGM and Seminar in Hong Kong and the recent AMSA MASS (maritime autonomous surface ships) forum in Canberra. It is encouraging to see the support of so many areas of the industry, but words are not enough. As we near the final month of 2019 and see the focus of the IMO shifting to another key area for World Maritime Day theme 2020, what can we do to continue to promote diversity and inclusion in the maritime community?

IALA ENAV Committee meeting, Saint Germain en Laye, France. Photo: Jillian Carson-Jackson

Getting to know unconscious bias
There’s a way of looking at competence that I use when I teach – you may be familiar with it – the four stages of competence. The first stage is unconscious competence – you don’t know what you don’t know. Then you learn a bit more and you reach the second stage – you know what you don’t know. As you become more competent you reach the stage of conscious competence – this is where you know what you know. There is a fourth stage – unconscious competence – where you don’t know what you know, but you are good at what you do. I had a math teacher who was unconsciously competent, he would always say “but it’s so easy, why don’t you understand?”

There’s a way of looking at competence that I use when I teach – you may be familiar with it – the four stages of competence. The first stage is unconscious competence – you don’t know what you don’t know. Then you learn a bit more and you reach the second stage – you know what you don’t know. As you become more competent you reach the stage of conscious competence – this is where you know what you know. There is a fourth stage – unconscious competence – where you don’t know what you know, but you are good at what you do. I had a math teacher who was unconsciously competent, he would always say “but it’s so easy, why don’t you understand?”

IALA VTS Workshop and meeting held in Busan, South Korea. Photo: Jillian Carson-Jackson

I recently represented the Nautical Institute at an event hosted by the Master Mariners of Canada entitled The Evolution of Equality and Inclusion in the Maritime Profession and these stages of competence came to mind during an excellent presentation on unconscious bias.

In some cases, there have been studies that show the bias, at the unconscious level (you don’t know what you don’t know) are sometimes hardwired into our systems. What do you do when you get into a car? You put on your seatbelt. This seat belt can save lives, but it was designed by men, not by women. A study published by the American Health Association in 2011 found that the odds for a belt-restrained driver to be severely injured in a car accident were 47% higher for women. An unconscious decision based on unconscious bias.

IALA VTS Workshop and meeting held in Busan, South Korea. Photo: Jillian Carson-Jackson

Words into actions
There are already some great activities underway to make the move from 2% representation. Organisations are working to consciously identify female speakers for conferences and panels. To support this, some areas are implementing a ‘speakers bank’ where profiles and areas of expertise of women in the industry can be found (for example, the UK Maritime).

There are also mentoring programs that focus on women mentees, with both men and women mentors (Women Offshore; IAPH; SheFarers).

What are some other activities that you are aware of? We’d love to hear what actions you or your organisation have planned to continue to empower women in the maritime community, and support diversity and inclusion, in 2020 and beyond.

Please message women in maritime on Facebook or Instagram, or email us at: women.in.maritime@nisea.org

* Jillian Carson-Jackson is the senior vice-president of the Nautical Institute

This article appeared in the November 2019 edition of DCN Magazine

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