LISW 2019: diversity on the agenda

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Maritime UK’s Women’s Taskforce Chair and WISTA UK President, Sue Terpilowski OBE, looks into the positive steps made by the industry to increase diversity since the last London International Shipping Week in 2017.

Two years have passed since John Hayes MP, the then Shipping Minister, called on the UK maritime sector to take seriously its lack of diversity and gender equality at London International Shipping Week (LISW) in 2017. Since then, it is hard to deny that we’ve made a lot of progress, but our journey is far from complete.

Positive steps taken by the sector include the Women in Maritime Taskforce, of which I am proud to be Chair. Established by Maritime UK in the autumn of 2018, the Taskforce is a movement of like-minded people who want to see real change in the gender mix in our sector. It is organised in sub groups, which concentrate on the delivery side of our work. These include recruitment, retention and total package, and all have set themselves challenging goals and targets to achieve.

This year, LISW week is back, providing the ideal platform for us all to review our progress, celebrate our successes and set ambitious goals for the next two years. We will once again be encouraging companies in the sector to sign up to the Women in Maritime Taskforce's Pledge or become a Charter company, as great positive change can be sparked through this initial commitment. For instance, our four pilot Charter companies are starting to achieve some of their short-term goals. We will be rolling out the Charter to more companies, having taken on board the learnings from the pilot.

“ We will be looking for volunteers to help deliver the programme in schools’ clubs so please do consider joining us in this fantastic programme.”

As part of LISW, our recruitment group will be launching our work with Professor Averil Macdonald OBE on our version of ‘People Like Me/My Life My Skills’ on the 9th September at London’s City Hall. This work consists of teacher’s packs, an online and paper quiz and guide. ‘People Like Me’ is a revolutionary approach that uses girls’ natural tendency to create and articulate their self-identity with adjectives to help them see themselves working happily and successfully in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). Our maritime guide will have careers matched to the 12 personality types, case studies and more to inspire the next generation into making maritime their career of choice. We will be looking for volunteers to help deliver the programme in schools’ clubs so please do consider joining us in this fantastic programme. There will also be an online version of ‘My Life/My Skills’ which we will be producing in conjunction with Women in Science and Engineering (WISE).

Some of the recruitment challenges we have identified through our work include barriers that can alienate and discourage women from applying for jobs and the discouraging effects of all-male panels. The Maritime UK Women in Maritime Taskforce has two great initiatives to help address these issues. The first is our work to assist recruiters in creating a gender-balanced interview process, which has been described as a positive move by Nicky Goldsbrough, Director of Corporate Services at Shoreham Port, who is taking the lead in this initiative for the Taskforce.

 

Left: London, UK, 10th September 2018: The Diversity Round Table event hosted by the Associated British Ports

One of the criticisms of recruitment in the maritime world is that female applicants feel ignored in what is often perceived to be a male-dominated industry. The ‘Interview Pool’ offers both sides an opportunity to be transparent about the recruitment process as well as offering employers a stronger focus on the best candidates regardless of gender. After all, if you are not recruiting from 100% of the applicants then how do you know you’re getting the best person for the role? We realised that not every maritime business has a female employee and/or HR department, so by using the volunteers from the ‘Interview Pool’, businesses can get broader perspectives. Companies can apply to join the ‘Interview Pool’ on Maritime UK’s website.

The ‘Interview Pool’, has already proved to be worthwhile in its operation and was recently praised by Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association. He commented: “It was invaluable to have an external pair of eyes and views feeding into our advertising and recruitment decisions. It was also a great help in terms of running a process which, because of our organisation’s size, is something we rarely undertake. We would really encourage others to consider utilising the concept.”

 

“ The taskforce is a movement of like-minded people who want to see real change in the gender mix in our sector.”

Alongside the ‘Interview Pool’, we have also commissioned Professor Averil MacDonald to work with us to improve the first stages of recruitment for women in the shipping and maritime industries. Her research includes reviewing a sample of adverts to identify good and poor practice and we will be launching our ‘Professionals’ Guidance’ report, outlining best practice in recruitment and practical ways of overcoming unconscious bias in recruitment procedures and adverts. The guidance will include a directory of recommended gender inclusive wording to be used to replace the male-orientated language that is often used in the adverts and job descriptions. This will be available as a free download from the Maritime UK website.

Another project we are proud of, and we believe is the first in the world, is our ‘Speaker Bank’ comprising women speakers. The initiative provides a database of expert women speakers for panels and conferences. Through its work, the Taskforce heard that many conference organisers claimed that they were unable to identify women to speak on a relevant topic at events.