Pausing To Reflect Around IMO's International Day For Women In Maritime

Four years ago, I was walking with my daughter in the pram during lockdown and thinking about ways in which to stay connected with people in the short term...
UK Transport
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Four years ago, I was walking with my daughter in the pram during lockdown and thinking about ways in which to stay connected with people in the short term, but also to create something that can have a future. I wanted this initiative to have a focus and a cause, and so our Women in Maritime Network was born. Over the past few years we have brought together clients and contacts from our offices around the world, with a joint aim to progress and support those already in the industry as well as to inspire the next generation. The network has been on real a journey - from virtual webinars and workshops to in-person networking events and thought provoking panel discussions.

In 2022, the IMO launched the International Day for Women in Maritime to take place annually on 18 May to celebrate the women in the industry but also to encourage the industry as a whole to look at itself and at how it can improve its diversity and inclusivity. Shortly after the launch, we had a thought provoking discussion with Lena Gothberg, the producer of the Shipping Podcast, who highlighted the changes that needed to be made and that it was everyone's responsibility to make a change whether it is through marketing, recruitment policies, flexibility for families or commercial incentives.

While I was hopeful, I wasn't convinced the message was being heard.

2024 has changed that.

As this year progresses I am hearing more and more inspiring stories - it is exciting. From small changes, such as a male manager including the more junior woman's name alongside his on documents. This showed that not only was she was involved in the content of that document but that he considers her on an equal footing – simple yet powerful. I saw institutional changes too, including more and more newly created women's networks in organisations that have been historically conservative. I was moved by the hurdles that these women had to jump in order to get the network approved. The sheer grit and determination required to drive change for the women who are following them was evident.

More than ever we are seeing gender diversity linked targets being a priority across multiple deals. Last year the London office advised ABN AMRO on the US$200m sustainability and gender diversity linked loan to Navigator Gas and our Athens team advised Citi and BNP Paribas on the $2.8bn sustainability- and gender diversity-linked facility to GasLog Ltd. But its not just us, we're seeing this trend across the shipping market as a whole, coming together for actionable change to collectively to address the environmental impact of the industry through regulation, technology and financial incentives – in particular incentivising gender diversity in shipping loan agreements. This is a trend that we expect to continue throughout 2024 and beyond.

I recently finished a nine month secondment at UKEF where I watched some truly stand out women making an impact - not only in the executive committee, but in managerial roles throughout the department. UKEF have since vowed to increase SME support fivefold, with a focus on SMEs that are underserved, such as ethnic minority and women-led businesses. What a fantastic example to set.

Spring 2024 has also seen the Flexible Working Act passed into law so that employees are now able to request flexible working arrangements from day one of their employment, instead of having to wait 26 weeks. This is music to the ears of many carers who need to be able to work flexibly to make the puzzle of working life fit together.

Just this week I was at an event to celebrate the Women in the Maritime industry, with excellent discussions and enthusiasm for the changes to come. Despite all this positive momentum, there is an alarming amount of work still to do - from educating the younger generations on the variety of career options, to finding ways to retain and promote senior female talent in organisations, there are a number of tangible things than can be done to help progress gender equality in the industry.

Is it too soon to say that tides are turning (pun intended)?

Yes, but to have so much good news and being only May gives me hope for what is to come.

No pressure June to December, but there is a lot to live up to.


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