On International Women’s Day, we doffed our caps to women working in logistics and transport, however these aren’t the only industries in which things are changing for the better in terms of equality.
Once upon a time, the sight of a woman in a uniform on deck would have been a strange one. However, largely due to the support of trade unions and company leaders, women are challenging the stereotypes and joining the water workforce as respected and invaluable members of the crew.
It is not just in a commercial capacity where a female presence is growing. No longer resigned to manning cruise ships or appearing only as cleaners or cooks, women are more often appearing in positions of authorities on vessels all around the world.
Red Funnel joined the handful of UK ferry operators who are appointing female ship captains for the first time. They join P&O Ferries who appointed Jenny Evans as captain in January 2018, with P&O Cruises making history by employing the nation’s first female cruise ship captain with Sarah Breton 2010.
It is believed that one of the main reasons that women rarely appear on deck is due to the fact many simply do not know that the opportunity exists. With many of the younger generation taking a more academic route after leaving school and heading off to university to seek pastures new, manual work including that of a maritime worker seems a much less preferred profession than thirty years ago. With an aging workforce however, the doors are opening for a new generation of seafarers, women and men alike.
ITF Seafarers, a charitable maritime trust representing maritime workers internationally, are appealing to employers and the future workforce to shake up the ranks. They also believe diversification should start long before entering the workforce. Families and educators are encouraged the dreams of their daughters and female students in order to raise awareness of the opportunities that await them both on land and on sea, where they can make a difference and be valued regardless of their gender.
"It has been my dream for many years, and just shows that hard work pays off. We need more women in maritime careers and if I can help to encourage other women to embark on this career then that's amazing."
Alice Duncan, Red Funnel's first female captain.
Women currently only represent around 2% of all maritime staff equating to around 23,000 female crew members worldwide. 3,000 of this number are employed by the Royal Navy. But, things are slowly starting to change. An ever-growing number of women are becoming commanders, first officers, deck hands and engineers, roles traditionally associated with their male counterparts.