IN the 19th century, the maritime industry was known as the ‘boys only club’.
In fact, there was a well-documented taboo that there will be mischief if women were on board.
Nowadays, the maritime industry is no longer a road not taken by women as more women are building careers within the field.
In 2016, we witnessed the evolution of women’s roles in the maritime industry when an entirely female crew made history by boarding to Gaza on the Zaytouna-Olivia vessel. This change is the result of multiple factors.
First, the traditional way of how the industry works has changed tremendously. The need for human energy within the maritime industry has been taken over by the usage of machines and technology.
In this era of the fourth industrial revolution, the industry requires more thinkers, strategists and problem solvers over those with physical strength.
Awareness campaigns on maritime opportunity for women have been conducted by academicians and industrial practitioners to spark interest among female students to pursue their higher education or a career in the maritime field.
Women associations such as The Women in Maritime Association Malaysia (MyWIMA) and Women in Logistic and Transport (WiLAT) actively address the challenges and issues faced by women at the national and international level.
These include fair treatment, open opportunity for women, equal salary, promotion based on performance, and other mistreatment such as sexual harassment.
In 2019, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) chose ‘Empowering Women in Maritime Community’ as the world maritime theme.
The IMO aims to create awareness by empowering women and girls and encouraging more women to become key maritime stakeholders.
Although the presence of women in this industry is insignificant compared to other fields, these continuous efforts are fruitful with the increase of female students taking up maritime education courses.
This does not mean we stop creating awareness about the industry, but it is an indication that the industry is moving towards the right direction.
One of the biggest challenges for women in maritime or any other career is to strike a balance between their household responsibilities and career.
In a research conducted by TalentCorp pertaining to this challenge, many women surveyed who left their jobs to raise their children felt the urge to resume their careers after their children had grown up, but found it difficult to do so.
The reasons are plenty, including the lack of support for them to restart their careers that they were once very passionate about. The critical issue is no longer about advocating more women to participate in the industry, but also about sustaining their talents.
One of the options that is yet to be explored is job flexibility and job sharing, which have proven to provide more adaptability for women with careers.
It will allow women to have quality time with their families without having to abandon their careers, whilst ensuring their skills are developed.
There are a lot of ongoing efforts to make the maritime industry a career of choice for women. These efforts need to be done continuously to cater to the progressing needs of the market.
A thorough study is required to explore the possible options in enhancing women’s involvement in the industry through job flexibility.
DR MASHA NUR SALSABIELA MENHAT
Faculty of Maritime Studies
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu
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