Executive Training; Breaking the Glass Ceiling – a Round Table Debate

Moderated by Sean Moloney, panellists included Irene Rosberg, Programme Director of the prestigious Blue MBA; Annika Bartels, Head of Research Department, Galbraith’s Ltd, UK;
Asa Linda Egilsdottir, Project Manager, Eimskip, Iceland; Maryam Niloofar Ghaemmaghami, from Simatech Shipping Agency, Iran; Mia Juul Jakobsen, Asset Manager, Lawyer, Maersk Tankers A/S, Denmark; Marte Kapstad Roen, Legal Counsel, Wärtsilä Gas Solutions Norway AS; Charlotte Røjgaard, Global Head of Marine Fuel Services, Bureau Veritas;
Lilith Margarete Rövekamp, Projects Coordinator, MAN Energy Solutions, Denmark; Teresa Sebastian, Tanker Broker, Hopp Shipping, India; and Zehra Yigit, Operation and Chartering manager, Negmar and TGM Deniz Isletmeciligi ve Acenteciligi Ltd, Turkey

Sean Moloney
These round table debates are a good opportunity to have a debate, talk about key issues, and have a good exchange of views. To start off, can we go around the table so that everyone can introduce themselves and perhaps talk a little about why you wanted to be part of the Blue MBA.

Lilith Margarete Rövekamp

I work for MAN Energy Solutions, located in Copenhagen, in the two-stroke part of the company. I run a programme for supply chain optimisation, so I work with cross functional teams in supply chain and purchasing. I never thought I would end up in this industry, but I am very happy to be here. I decided to pursue the Blue MBA because I believe it will improve my theoretical and practical knowledge of how shipping industry operates.  It will also help me to complement my soft skills such as communication and leadership.

Asa Linda Egilsdottir

I work for Eimskip, located in Iceland, and have been in the industry for 21 years. I started in service and sales. From our perspective, I have also been doing a lot of business process management and currently I work in IT, implementing new processes and systems to support them. So, we are very much looking to the future to see how we can make life easier and to see how the industry is going to develop.

Zehra Yigi

I live and work in Turkey. I am a maritime engineer and an ocean-going master – currently I am chartering and operations manager at the TGM and Negmar Gas Company. We have five LPG carriers and we are working the ammonia and LPG business.

Teresa Sebastian

I work in New Delhi as a tanker broker. My company works closely with Indian oil refineries and charterers. Coming to the Copenhagen Business School was a huge ambition and I always felt that meeting people from the shipping fraternity is going to change your outlook. It is also exciting to see so many women here because that is not a norm in India. It is a challenging field – but also quite exciting.

Irene Rosberg

My entire professional life has been devoted to the industry, basically in the sphere of management education and research. I like to believe that through this Blue MBA programme – since 2001, the programme has graduated 274 students from more than 45 countries – we are in the forefront of contributing essential leadership skills to the next generation holding the reins, including a just number of female professionals. Encouraging diversity, I see as a main driver of this work. Without a holistic leadership approach,outcomes will suffer in every way.

Annika Bartels

I am from Hamburg, where I started working in the shipping industry. I work in the research department for the shipbroking company Galbraith in London.

Marte Kapstad Roen

I work as legal counsel for Wärtsilä Norwey. I have been in the maritime industry since finishing my studies at the University of Southampton in 2012.  My work is mainly on contract negotiations and dispute handling.

Charlotte Røjgaard

I am a chemical engineer and never expected to work in the maritime industry, but I’ve done that now for 25 years. I started in MAN and was there for14 years. I joined Bureau Veritas in 2015 to assist starting up their marine fuel testing branch as the Global Technical Manager. Since July 2019, I have been the global head for Bureau Veritas’ marine fuel services VeriFuel.

Mia Juul Jakobsen

As a lawyer, you tend to see all things from the legal side, which is why I decided on this MBA to get a better picture and understanding of what other people are doing and to see how I can optimise the processes.

Maryam Niloofar Ghaemmaghami

Shipping is our family business. I am here because studying at the Blue MBA at the Copenhagen Business School will significantly improve my shipping knowledge and help me to a broader understanding of the industry.

Sean Moloney

The Blue MBA is getting a very good reputation in the marketplace and is really highly regarded. It is nice to speak to female leaders within the industry because this is something that shipping is really starting to wake up to. Talk to me about why you have embarked on this MBA and why it is important; and whether it has been a difficult process for you within your companies and within your sector to actually get onto the programme and for your employers to see the value of it?

Asa Linda Egilsdottir

I have studied within the shipping industry so I have gained some experience from that, but I think in general, to be able to maintain knowledge and also to keep contact with other people within the same industry and learn from one another is also quite important. One of my colleagues here in Denmark spoke very highly of this MBA so that is why I joined it. But I think also for me personally maybe it is just a woman’s thing, but we often think if we don’t have the MBA we can’t apply for this job or that job.


Sean Moloney

So, do you see it as a sort of justification?

Asa Linda Egilsdottir

A part of it is. For me it is an investment because I want to take my own personal journey further. This is one of those steppingstones for me, opportunity to learn new skills and grow as a person – even though I have all this experience within the business, it is also about getting the approval that you have finished the MBA. I often hear this talked about amongst women – usually not amongst men. Men are happy to apply for a job that requires an MBA, but I would never apply without it – rather than feeling I could be accepted because of

my experience.

Lilith Margarete Rövekamp

My traineeship in Hong Kong offered me a glance of an international work environment which I was striving for. I was also very eager to gain some work experience from the beginning, therefore, when I finished my bachelor’s degree I took a pause mainly to explore the possibilities and find out where my focus should be. I developed a great passion for the shipping industry and followed that path. Now, after almost six years working within this industry, although I have gained a substantial amount of knowledge, I still feel I need different skill sets to face the challenges of the industry and see the big picture. MAN is a forward looking and progressive company which invests in its people and I am grateful for the support I receive to do this MBA.  What motivates me is being on a fast track to further strengthen my education and experience and being a part of a global network.

Sean Moloney

Do you agree it gives justification to what you do against employees or industry in general?

Mia Juul Jakobsen

For me this MBA is all about getting the right tools, having better understanding of the industry and being on a more strategic level.

Sean Moloney

Zehra let me bring you in. Shipping is very male-dominated – it’s an interesting career path you take when deciding you want to go to sea.

Zehra Yigit

It is really very difficult, but it is also a very big challenge. To be honest, I am a very technical person. I am an engineer and also a master but I am very technical. I am here to do this MBA programme because I want to improve my business skills. OK, I have also been doing chartering business since 2014 but I need to improve my business skills.

Sean Moloney

How long were you at sea? Did you see it as steppingstone to your broader career?

Zehra Yigit

I was at sea for seven years. And yes, it was a steppingstone to my broader career. Working at sea somehow brings a global citizenship to the mariners no matter what their genders are.  If you are a sailor, you have to be aware of the international rules as well as the local rules and your primary duty is to carry out the cargo operation on time and get your ship to the next port in the fastest way. Sea experience taught me not to be afraid of storms, how to manage my emotions and stay strong even when I am the only woman amongst tens of men in the ocean, how to manage the time and anxieties, how to get guidance from the stars and what is living in the middle of nowhere like. I believe I’ll learn the remaining skills to advance my career through the Blue MBA.

Sean Moloney

Teresa, let me bring you in. What are your views of the role that the Blue MBA can play in furthering your own career within the shipping industry – will it make it easier?

Teresa Sebastian

A definite turning point is deciding what industry you want to be part of. I wanted to be part of shipping because I have a real passion towards the industry. Many of my family members are also part of the industry so I grew up learning about shipping – any form of shipping. For me, there are advantages from doing the MBA – OK, you get it on your CV, that’s great. But beyond that – imagine travelling on the way and being part of a multicultural team. We are working together, and we are doing case studies and dropping in ideas and we see how different companies work in the shipping industry. It is an entire teamwork. The shipping industry alone doesn’t exist – we are all part of the bigger picture. For me the MBA has meant that my core processes have started changing. Initially I was thinking about the micro concept but for me now it is the macro concept because the whole industry is changing, the rules are changing and many regulations will come in the next few years – and I am getting this awareness from this programme that I may not get anywhere else. The input which comes in a two-hour session it is immense. You will not get that in any other way.

Sean Moloney

Working in shipbroking is very competitive. How easy is it for a woman to make her way in a sector like shipbroking and how will the MBA improve things for you?

Annika Bartels

When I think back to when I started in shipping 21 years ago, I can see that the industry has changed tremendously. When I started, it used to be two or three women among 100 or 150 men at a function. I think just looking at this room with all these fantastic women around the table, it has changed already quite a bit. But there is still work to be done and I think we need to be a little more patient and continue to talk about it. In terms of this MBA and what drew me to it in particular is the fact that you can build up your studies based around the company you are employed by. I am very passionate about the company that I am working for. To be able to give something back – I like that fact about the MBA.

Sean Moloney

What is being done to attract different people in, rather than that same sort of genre of public schoolboy coming in and being a shipbroker?

Annika Bartels

In our company, if a good and qualified person is coming in for an interview then that person gets employed. We have female brokers on every trading desk and department and yes, the majority is still male. But just looking through the CVs I get into the research department, the majority of it is male. But I look for the right person for the job, not the gender or the background. I will be looking for the best person available.

Sean Moloney

That begs the question, how do we open up the industry?

Annika Bartels

I am from a port city where everyone knows about shipping. Most of my friends, whether female or male, are in shipping. But if you come from somewhere like Birmingham, for example, you wouldn’t know about the industry.

Sean Moloney

Shipping doesn’t do a very good job selling itself to the general public. If you talk to people who don’t know about shipping, they don’t understand it at all. People don’t know where their products come from and have no real interest – they go to Tesco and it’s all there magically. Marte, let me bring you in on this: you are a lawyer and could have gone anywhere – why shipping?

Marte Kapstad Roen

Why shipping? It is actually quite accidental. I remember at law school seeing maritime trainee posters and the most likely thing would actually be working for an insurance company in the marine sector and I thought ‘that sounds awfully boring’. I didn’t know anything about shipping. I went to Southampton to study and while there thought – why not try this maritime law thing? I absolutely loved it and I haven’t really looked back.  It is such a dynamic business to be in.  It is one of those businesses where the interconnection between people still remains a big thing. A business-related or maritime-related MBA creates the best possible environment for your future in this industry. So, I am very happy that I tumbled into this industry by accident. It is forever evolving and I think particularly now we are at the start of a very big development that really challenges everything we thought about shipping. There is huge potential going forward.

Sean Moloney

Charlotte, let me bring in your thoughts in on this: the marine fuel services sector is very important and competitive. What does the MBA mean for you as far as your career is concerned?

Charlotte Røjgaard

I have been in management for seven or eight years now. I have never had any management training, so for me it has always been common sense and gut feelings – very focused on people management, how to develop people, how to extract the best out of people. I had reached the point where I thought I needed some tools and wanted to get a more structured approach to management. Being in Copenhagen where the Copenhagen Business School is, being in a highly shipping-oriented industry and community here, it was just the obvious choice to go for the Blue MBA. Also, a colleague had attended the programme and spoke very highly of it.

Sean Moloney

Does the MBA open doors?

Charlotte Røjgaard

I share Annika’s observations. When I started in this industry, there were a fewwomen in the international groups that I joined. Today, there are many more women coming in and it is happening by itself. I think the generation that is coming up for retirement now will probably be the last ones that have this male-gender focus. If I talk to my sons about how it was in my parents’ generation and how they would promote people, they look at me and say it was crazy – a bit like when I tell them you used to have to walk across the room and press buttons to change channels on the television. However, shipping is a global industry and that means it encompasses different cultures. You won’t find the Scandinavian mindset in every part of the world. If you want to talk about gender, you have to talk about cultures. There are countries where it is terrible to be a women, especially if you want to have a career and are ambitious. Here we don’t have the same boundaries.

Maryam Niloofar Ghaemmaghami

Technology is driving some of the most significant changes in the business. Although it was difficult for female professionals to enter senior positions in this industry, I believe that the technology is opening new doors and makes it easier to close this gender gaps because we have many female IT experts who could contribute to the shipping industry.

Sean Moloney

Can we look at this whole question of whether shipping is agile enough. Will technology be seen as a conduit to actually improving the situation and is shipping doing enough to open its doors not just to women but to the right people, not just the people it has always gone for in the past? Shipping is changing, it is adopting smart technology and AI. You are going to have to compete with a lot of land-based industries to get the right people. Is shipping able to do that?

Annika Bartels

Shipping isn’t very tangible – there is so much that you don’t see, which makes it difficult if, for example, you study IT to see that you have a relevant part and potential job in the industry. If you don’t come from near the sea, you might miss out on the opportunities. So I think that we have to market the industry more broadly and target a certain audience for the future in shipping.

Teresa Sebastian

Most have no idea about shipping. You can tell a young college student about shipping and they think about cruise ships or tell them about logistics, and they think about courier services. Shipping as a subject is never taught in school – it is something you choose mainly because you were aware of it.

Mia Juul Jakobsen

I think one of the issues in Denmark has been that they advertise a lot of job opportunities but when it comes too the actual number of jobs, the number of positions are quite limited.   

Asa Linda Egilsdottir

Regarding technology, our biggest challenge is often the people. When implementing changes, we try to focus on people, technology and processes. In general, there is a lot of talk about digitalisation, but do we know what that means in 10 years’ time? There are many changes in this fast-moving environment and talk about jobs changing. This can cause some uncertainty in people’s minds so that is why it is important to support people in these changes.

Sean Moloney

Clusters will influence the type of job you have – for example, in Singapore it’s about ship owners, operators, trade. In London it is financial services, law, insurance, broking. But if you have something that is going to be the driver that is going to attract people, technology seems to be the right way forward because that is going to bring young people in.

Irene Rosberg

When it comes to the shipping industry, to be an expert in a niche area is no longer sufficient. Many of you have already mentioned you need to have overview of what is happening in your organisation. That is one thing. For instance, if you are a maritime lawyer and you want to have a job in a shipping company, having command of the legal aspect is not enough: what is required is much wider knowhow, having a holistic view of what is happening in the industry. And then when it comes to IT, up to now almost everyone in such a role has been either a former master or chief engineer, so that by itself limits the entry of women into this industry. Taking the holistic approach affords women a better chance, but the aim is not just to satisfy some statistical gender survey.  We don’t want to apply tick-box measurement. We want to be an integral part of the industry.

Sean Moloney

Shipping should be opening its doors. What should happen?

Irene Rosberg

I think the women in this industry should grow a little more aggressive. You cannot just sit on the side-lines and hope that somebody is going to give you a job. You really need to have the guts to go out and get it. Believe me, I have learned this over many years in this industry. Many of the people who have supported me have been men. There are very good people you can go to and ask for help.  You have to be determined. We are sometimes too timid, we are holding back. When the going gets tough, you have to go and fight for your aspirations. How badly do you want to succeed? Do you really want to have the job you have set your heart on, do you want to have a satisfying career? It all leads to that point. To establish that career, you have to be more ambitious and more forceful.

Sean Moloney

Do we think enough is being done by the industry in all these areas? It is an ageing population in the industry and its leaders are all grey-haired men, but it is getting better. Is enough being done by the industry to improve the situation?

Charlotte Røjgaard

I don’t know if enough is being done. The opportunities are there and we are sitting here from very diverse backgrounds very different cultures and different ages, so that, in itself, is a very good example. It is a fantastic industry. It really grows on you and I never expected to spend 25 years in it.

Irene Rosberg

It might seem obvious, but all stakeholders in the shipping industry must invest more in their people. Take onboard as a priority at all levels the development of skills. The rest – a sound bottom line, good reputation and so on – will follow.

Sean Moloney

Thank you very much indeed for a really interesting discussion. l