Cover Story: Gender diversity Delivering in equal measure

Natasa Pilides, Cyprus Deputy Minister of Shipping; Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, CEO, Tototheo and President, WISTA International; Yvette Du Preez, Gibson Shipbrokers; Mariella Bottiglieri, Managing Director, Giuseppe Bottiglieri Shipping Company; Katy Ware, Director of Maritime Safety and Standards, Maritime and Coastguard Agency; Irene Rosberg, Program Director, Copenhagen Business School; Karin Orsel, CEO, MF Shipping Group; Charlotte Kirk, Commercial Director, ITIC; Lena Göthberg, Shipping Podcast; Pippa Strasser-Ganderton, Head of Global Account Management, Marine & Energy, ATPI; Cathy Mann, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications, ABS; Sean Moloney, Managing Director, Elaborate Communications.

Sean Moloney
If you could give me your views and perspective on the whole issue of women in shipping and where we are.

Mariella Bottiglieri
Thank you for inviting me. I represent the sixth generation of a family company and we have been active in shipping since 1850. This is the first generation where we have women. My father wanted a son but God is great and gave him three daughters! I am in the commercial side, one of my sisters is in the legal department and the other is the Financial Director. It is the first time the company has seen women because in the past women were more likely to get married and stay at home. We have seen some problems in our company and in Italy where we mainly operate. The first problem is that once you have a child, the framework is not there to help you. I’m talking about how your own colleagues and employer react to the fact that you are spending some time with your newborn baby. The second problem we have seen is the salary difference between men and women. We have introduced a nursery in the office. Unfortunately we understood the need for this when the three of us became mothers – before we didn’t understand what it meant. Putting a nursery in the office was good for us and we decided to open it to all our women in the office. We gave them the same flexibility that we have because we trust them, and we know they are not lying to us. We then attracted the attention of the men in the office who said to us that this was really unfair because we were only giving this benefit to the women. We couldn’t open the nursery to everybody simply because it is a little one. Yesterday, I was speaking at a conference about cyber-attacks and digitalisation, this kind of thing that is a new era and yet we are still here saying sorry my salary is less than yours, and you’re a man. This is two worlds going at different speeds.

Pippa Strasser-Ganderton
I’m here because I have worked in the industry on the periphery because my company looks after travel, moving crew on and off vessels and rigs, and I’ve been in the industry for almost 20 years. It’s interesting viewing shipping from the side lines and I am happy to say I have seen more women in roles in shipping today than when I started out, but they are still few and far between. When I got my first job at British Airways, looking after the marine sector, one of my main competitors for that role was a guy and he told me I would be absolutely rubbish in my role because I was a girl. That gave me such motivation, and it shouldn’t be like that. It should be the best person for the job and I think fortunately in today’s world in many areas, there is more equality but I think you have just highlighted some very good areas where there isn’t still. I think there are great opportunities for women in shipping and obviously for someone who has only ever worked shoreside I think there are fantastic opportunities there but we need to create awareness for women who maybe do want to do a job at sea first then go on to a shoreside job just like the opportunities are there for men. I deal with a lot of crewing and HR directors who have been onboard ships and they’ve got their experience from that background and then they have come into an office job and it’s been a good transition for them, and I think we need to offer the same to women and I think the whole industry needs to be far more aware in its marketing towards the next generation of seafarers, that they make it attractive to women. There are so many roles, from security to logistics to roles onboard.

Sean Moloney
So, the whole image of shipping needs to be improved. Charlotte, what are your thoughts?

Charlotte Kirk
I have worked in the shipping industry for 33 years and have studiously avoided coming to any event that involved women in shipping. It’s a very different world now to what it was 33 years ago and it has come such a long way and clearly there is further to go but there just doesn’t seem to be enough women in the industry in general. Whether it is something about shipping….you see many more women in banking and insurance. In Scandinavia you see a lot more women in shipping so maybe it is a sore point that childcare is quite good in Scandinavia. I read something this morning that talked about an ‘old boys’ club’ but I don’t think it is if you don’t let it be.

Cathy Mann
I’ve only been in the industry for three and a half years but I did come from Oil & Gas and energy services which are very male dominated industries. I always ascribe to the fact that ‘tell me what I can’t do, and I’ll show you what I can do’ and I find that very true in shipping and I find a lot of younger women coming up in the industry today believe in that mantra, so I think we just need to do a better job of empowering them, showing them the opportunities, giving them the opportunities and creating the opportunities especially from our roles where we can open doors for them and let them thrive and demonstrate what is possible in the industry. I know it’s a challenge but I think the more we do that, the more we put our voices together the more that we elevate our roles in the industry, whether it is onshore or at sea. At least giving them this opportunity is one that I was able to do a couple of years ago with the first publication of my company’s annual review when we put a woman on the cover. It ended up being part of our advertising campaign just demonstrating that there are women in this industry.

Katy Ware
I’ve been with the MCA for 20 years. I started as a surveyor working on the ships and never imagined that 20 years later I would be running the whole show! I am a huge champion of women and spend a lot of my personal time mentoring and attending events like this. I am not too keen on the words ‘empowering women’ and would like us to move to using the word ‘equality’ and the reason for that is I think it can be just as difficult to be a gay man in this industry as it can be to be a woman so we will obviously put the ladies first but I would like to use the word ‘equality’ because it is not a very user-friendly industry. Just recently my Board, directed by the Department for Transport, put a quota up for females I was recruiting. I refused those quotas because I was setting myself up to fail and there was no way I was going to do that. I struggle to get surveyors through the door, male or female, black, white, Asian whatever so I wouldn’t accept it. I always believe that competency should always come first in doing the job. I want the best person for the job but what we need to do is to find a way to make sure the women are the best people and find a way to make those individuals competent to move up. A little food for thought for you – in this day and age – and I despair – I find it absolutely terrifying that some executive directors still think it is okay to say that the best place for a women is on the bed. I’m sorry to say that.

Natasa Pilides
I have been the Shipping Deputy Minister for Cyprus for 18 months and it’s a great role. It’s great to be in shipping, it’s such an amazing industry and I count myself really lucky. In terms of diversity I would very much agree that diversity is not just about gender, it’s about bringing lots of skills to the table and that is really important to recognise and to actually foster and I think we are having problems getting young people involved in particular areas of the industry. So, whilst – giving Cyprus as an example – we have lots of courses to do with shipping and finance, shipping and law and shipping accountancy, it’s much more difficult to motivate people to become seafarers let alone girls. I feel like, as a state, there is a lot we can do to help make that happen, so at least we can feel useful and feel we are doing something that is making a difference and that does involve things like giving grants and scholarships to students, talking to children and creating programmes and motivating them to get acquainted with ships, with what ships do and getting them excited about all these things. In secondary education we have recently introduced a maritime direction, again to make them curious about what is it like to be a seafarer and why would I want to be involved, how does it interact with technology – things that are actually interesting to young people. In terms of diversity, there is definitely a lot of prejudice. There is prejudice everywhere. One of the things that really bothers me when I’ve talked to young girls or young mothers is that they succumb to family expectations and pressure so whilst they can have ambition and they are very high performers they suddenly feel that their responsibility has changed and they feel responsible to answer to the family and they don’t share responsibility in a 50/50 manner with their partners, and that’s where a lot of problems start. On the one hand, yes we need to encourage an environment where they have the courage to be different and to actually stand up for themselves but they also have responsibility to do that and I feel that is one of the most important things, living in an area where there is no equal opportunity. I have friends who are ashamed to say they are feminists or talk about these issues but if we don’t talk about them and speak up things are not going to change. So, in terms of embracing and getting on with it, I fully agree, and I guess that is the point I am making and we need to ask for things more overtly than we do. In terms of competence, I fully agree that competence should be the criteria for people to get a specific job and I also think that people should be given a fair chance.

Sean Moloney
Natasa, thank you very much for that. Irene, do you want to give us your comments?

Irene Rosberg
I have worked all my professional life within the shipping industry and the line of business I have pursued has been educating people in the shipping industry and in 2001 I was headhunted to lead an Executive MBA in Shipping and Logistics at the Copenhagen Business School and I have been there ever since. Previous to that I had done a lot of research within the European Commission, all to do with the shipping industry and how to enhance the skill sets of the people sitting in management positions within the shipping industry. When it comes to women in the industry, there are, of course, a lot of challenges around equality of the women. One of them is an unconscious bias that really influences the decision making process when you are hiring or promoting an employee. In the back of your head there is some sort of bias which is there. The other bias I have seen in the boardroom is the taboo against working flexibility of women because a lot of people who are sitting in management positions in the shipping industry think that once a woman leaves the office and goes home she turns into a little housewife and has nothing to do with the work or anything else rather than just tend to the chores and I think in both cases I just mentioned digitalisation is actually the answer to both of them. Another thing I see personally is the quota system. If somebody wants me to sit on a board because I am a woman so we can justify the statistics I would certainly say no because I think that we are talented, we are committed, we are competent – why should we not be given a position because of our skill set and just because of our gender? I find that very offensive.

Yvette Du Preez
I fell into oil and shipping about 13 years ago, so it’s not my first career, and I’ve loved the international aspect of it. I’m fascinated by all the people I have met from across the world. I know women, not necessarily in shipping, who have made it in their fields because they singularly set their minds to it and they empower themselves. I know a fantastic woman, who has sort of become a friend, whom I really respect and she is a spitfire pilot and nothing stops her. I think self-empowerment for women is something we all have to take responsibility for. I stood on the trading floor a few years ago and a friend came to me very frustrated and had a good rant because she was being blocked on the account of being a woman and we all knew it and I said to her, of course you can make it but are you willing to pay the price to make it here? She was a bit upset at the time but when we talked that evening what came through was what is the price that has to be paid, and she chose to go and pay it elsewhere. Therein lies the problem – that as long as the price for success is not equal, we have to change that. To touch on that, you’ve got your cultural biases and your institutional biases. Culturally, across our industry we are dealing with so many nations with so many different cultures and approaches and it’s very hard to say to someone I don’t live in your context but really you should empower women when I’m not there to live their lives and the consequences of whatever they do. Institutionally, I was quite astonished at the glass ceiling in London, coming from South Africa. A lot of it is harmless – it’s how people relate, it’s how people hang out together, and it’s not meant badly, but when a ship broker for another company said in an interview that women bring a nice atmosphere to the office, I thought can someone help that man and take his foot out of his mouth! Having grown up in apartheid South Africa, I don’t even have to explain the inequality, which is so deep. So, when you are trying to correct something, one has to think very clearly about what is your goal and trying to create a new imbalance. Are you going to force something by means of quotas, because let’s be very clear on something – unless you force change, it is unlikely that you are going to change the natural order of things. Whether it is intentional or harmful, or harmless or not, you are going to have to force change and how will you do that? Of course, I’m going to be appointed on skill, but how do I get to the point where I have the skills if there has been such a strong bias? I do not know the answer, but creating an equal environment for everybody regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, is ultimately our aim. In South Africa we have tried so many things and it is all about the intention with which it is implemented. People are trying and you have to salute that. I think the younger generation have a different take on how they view things obviously, but we also have to drop our own biases and ask ourselves again, what is the price we are willing to pay to change things.

Sean Moloney
One aspect that was talked about there was a change in mindset, not only from within the industry, but also within the new workforce that the shipping industry is going to need for the future because it’s not just women, it is young people who have IT skills – it’s a completely different skill set – and how can we get away from just talking about it all the time to getting that change that we need, to actually getting the right people into those jobs to drive this industry forward?

Lena Göthberg
How often do we sit at the table with 14 women, and how can we show the world that there are so many great women in this industry?

Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou
I think we should stop with the labelling first of all. Age is a factor, yes, but I think there is space for everyone. So, yes we want to attract young people into the industry but the older people have their space and we should not make them feel like they are not needed because they are the ones that will hopefully teach the younger generation. It also requires a change of mindset and it has to do a little bit with the age because it’s not about your age or who you are, or your gender, it is about having the right mindset for this business. We need to be more agile, we have to be more open-minded. The shipping industry is going through immense change and unless we are prepared for it, I don’t think we will be able to move forward. Another point I would like to make is it’s time we stopped talking and we need to start doing and, even if we don’t have the answers yet or the whole answer, we still need to get moving because unless we start doing talking about it will not help us much.

Cathy Mann
I don’t think there’s one answer. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach that is going to be for any part of our industry. But if we look at other industries that have faced similar challenges, this is nothing new. How can we effect this change and leverage those opportunities for women in our industry. I’m not a fan of quotas but measurement I am a fan of because unless you start demonstrating improved measurement in metrics, without quotas, that in turn changes in leadership, and change in behaviours. If we are talking about the road to 2020 and the road to 2050 why aren’t we talking about diversity on that same road?

Karin Orsel
Like a few others, I am not in favour of quotas, but we see a generation shift already and if you compare the industry with 10 to 15 years ago, there are so many new, young talented people, and with the new skills which are being demanded there are a lot of young women already entering the industry. So, in that respect, the IMO team is creating a lot of opportunity for all of us. But let’s not just stop at this year because in the years to come we need to do something, but we need to do it together. It also starts with ourselves and what are we doing within our own communities and our own companies to make sure that we get this next generation and give them the opportunities because if we don’t do it, we can’t expect it from our colleagues. I know a few at this table are already acting on that but it should be industry-wide.

Sean Moloney
Do you think the industry is ready for change like that?

Karin Orsel
Absolutely!

Sean Moloney
They are not paying lip service though, they are onboard?

Karin Orsel
I have just come from a crew welfare conference and it is all about the human element. That’s where it starts and that’s where it finishes and it doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman. It’s about being appreciated and being good in your job. I really think our industry is ready for that.

Irene Rosberg
I think the industry is absolutely ready for this because the skill sets that the industry needs today to advance are the skill sets that are very inclusive of women.

Natasa Pilides
I think you are right in a way in terms of the pipeline and future leaders. Yes, the industry is ready, and people moving into the industry now are doing so more on an equal footing but I think at the moment there is still quite a long way to go before we reach a stage where there is actually equal opportunity across the board at the higher levels. And I think one of the problems that both quotas and measurement create is that there are a lot of token roles for women. People are sort of okay with it and they are saying they want to include more women but it’s always in the safe roles. It’s not just a shipping problem.

Cathy Mann
Of course there are going to be a lot of attorneys, marketing, finance, human resources that is just how this evolution is going but that doesn’t mean that once you are in there you can’t take a springboard and go into something else from an operations role or any other capacity.

Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou
We need to shatter preconceptions because it happened yesterday and it happens frequently. People listen to Natasa and then they approach me and say, you have a female Minister, and how old is she? We need to change that mindset. I agree that the industry is ready. It is ready because the shipping industry has been in crisis for years and people are looking for solutions and, yes, diversity is fair but it’s also a good business case and that is why they are ready for it. It’s a cynical point of view but so be it and our point is to get there. Karin talked about collaboration and we live in an increasingly networked world so collaboration is key.

Charlotte Kirk
You can’t disregard 50% of the population.

Katy Ware
We have got to get them young and now we have to prepare the future generation because they need to be ready for it as well.

Yvette Du Preez
We’ve got to move past talking and getting a plan to action. We will lose the battle if we don’t move beyond the ‘I’m a victim’ stage to creating an equal playing field for everybody.

Lena Göthberg
I think we need to identify the man who wants to continue the journey with us and show them how to do it. WISTA International is now seeing such a demand from organisations and men to say ‘help us, we don’t know how to do this’.

Sean Moloney
I’m just trying to get a solution to this because I totally agree that mindset needs to change but does this need to be through the leaders in the industry driving that forward, trying to force change?

Mariella Bottiglieri
From my point of view, I think we have to work – and this can be done on a national and international basis – on the kind of contracts that women can have. I’m talking especially about Italy because that is where we are based. We should have more flexibility, more contracts and a legal framework which would give more flexibility to working women. This is something we still don’t have in Italy in the same way as other countries. The second thing we can do is, recently we have been renewing our TMSA (Tanker Management Self-Assessment) and one of the things was about the ethics in the company. We had to put in writing that we do not discriminate any kind of religion. Why are we talking only about religion? Why don’t we also talk about gender and minority? We should also try to stop sexist comments being made, whether they are in public or one to one. We also need to understand what we want to do with quotas. They are offensive but why don’t we manipulate this and use these for our own benefit?

Natasa Pilides
But for as long as there is no quota there is obviously a quota for men. Why is it okay for them to have a quota and not us?

Katy Ware
All my mentors and the people who have got me to where I am are honest, genuine, kind men who saw something in me and helped me.  There are a whole load of guys out there who will want to support us.

Irene Rosberg
We are talking as if we are all victims here, but we are not. One of the things we have to really look at is would we, as women, be prepared to pay the price and are we ready to go the extra mile? Are we aspiring to have a career rather than just a job?

Pippa Strasser-Ganderton
We have done that, so we should inspire others shouldn’t we?

Natasa Pilides
The same as some women have more ambition than others, so do men, and it should be equal for everyone. I completely agree about flexibility and how it is very important but eventually we need to get to a stage where people are actually assuming responsibility for household chores and childcare 50/50, and because that is not happening we need flexibility, and not just
for women.

Sean Moloney
Can I bring Karin in on this?

Karin Orsel
I think you are creating a very good bridge. Talking from my own company, I remember when 10 years ago one of the guys in my office wanted to work part-time as he had just became a father and wanted to take off one day a week. All the guys in the office, and even the girls, were giggling because he was bold enough to make that stand, and I thought it was really great because nowadays I have got superintendents and quality managers who make the same choice. For the traditional companies it often means ‘if you are not willing to work full-time, we are not willing to give you that position’. It’s your company culture where it starts and if you can make a change there….

Sean Moloney
We talked about how certain jobs in shipping tend to be male-dominated, but you’ve got situations like superintendents now who are traditionally coming from the sea, but there’s a shortage of superintendents causing a problem, so they are now having to employ people coming from land-based industry, but is an opportunity because it opens up to a wider workforce.

Karin Orsel
It comes back again to skill sets and if you look at what is demanded from a superintendent now, he needs to focus on the human element. If he goes onboard, he needs to report back what is the mental health state of a colleague and that is so out of his traditional role and scope, so I think it is interesting that it doesn’t just open the door for women but people from other industry, which is really appealing to me because we can only learn from that. You see there is a complete shift in expectations which will continue for many years.

Pippa Straser-Ganderton
Changing the culture is so important and maybe means going back to the roots and looking at the way recruitment starts and making that more diverse and more equality-driven.  That way, you will attract talent from other industries.

Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou
Recently I was talking to two captains – one a ship owner and the other a managing director in a big shipping company – and we were discussing the effects of digitalisation in the industry in general and specifically for how it affects society matters and both of them had very interesting ideas where they saw the crew of the future. Both of them realise that things are changing, so this is an opportunity for diversity in general. Addressing the point about men and women, I think it comes back to labelling and we need to stop doing that. As WISTA International we encourage our national WISTAs to start accepting male members because diversity does not go one way. Of course, we do not enforce it because different countries have different cultures, but we do encourage it. We need to start thinking on a different level.

Katy Ware
The headline principle that I run my directorate on is that family comes first – male and female. Because word has got out that this is how I operate, there are individuals, particularly men, who have chosen to work for me in order to get a work-life balance. They know that I allow them to work remotely which then allows their wives to go back to work post having children. Those are the sort of men I want working for me. That simple principle has really transformed our directorate.

Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou
I think we are generally open to discussing that men also want a better work-life balance.

Karin Orsel
Sean, being the only gentleman on this panel, I would like to ask you the same question you have asked us – what do you think?

Sean Moloney
I get frustrated when I hear men in the shipping industry complaining about the lack of activity that they are doing towards diversity. But nothing is really being done, they are just talking about it. At Elaborate, 70% of my workforce are women and that is not box-ticking, it’s because they are the best people for the job. If I was to go into battle I’d take them with me – they are absolutely superb. But I think the industry needs to change its attitude because it is not a label and it shouldn’t be. When organising the Conference speakers for LISW, I don’t put men ahead of women, I put the right people in that role. The Conference this year is heavily dominated by women and they deserve to be there because they are the right people on those panels, and that has always been my philosophy. I think there is room for change and there’s room for a different mindset and the industry needs to do a huge amount in changing its image in getting people into the industry because it has got a lot of challenges ahead of it.

Thank you very much, and thanks to Karen (Martin) for all her hard work in organising today. It is a tremendous grouping and the debate has been superb. You are leaders within your industry and I’m very proud to be part of this conversation