Celebrating International Day for Women in Maritime: Making Waves Across the Globe

First published by Climate Nexus
Date: May 26, 2023

The maritime industry is a vast realm of opportunities, where women are making waves and reshaping the course of the shipping world. We embarked on a journey to honor the remarkable achievements and contributions of women in maritime across the globe. From leading organizations to driving innovation, these trailblazers are breaking barriers and leaving an unforgettable mark on the industry.

As we celebrate Women in Maritime Day 2023, we must acknowledge the pivotal role women play in an industry traditionally dominated by men. Their expertise, resilience, and unwavering determination are transforming the maritime landscape and inspiring generations to come.

Credit: International Maritime Organization

We’re highlighting the incredible stories of women defying conventions and pushing boundaries in maritime. See the triumphs, challenges, and groundbreaking initiatives they lead, promoting diversity, sustainability, and innovation.

Let’s meet the exceptional women from different corners of the globe who are making waves in the shipping industry and hear their stories that will inspire and empower all women:

Aoife O’LearyOpportunity Green

How important do you think it is to increase women’s participation in the maritime sector?

It’s hugely important to increase women’s participation in the maritime sector. How any sector could meet today’s challenges without having the best talent at its fingertips is a mystery to me. Unfortunately, the maritime sector is missing out on a sizable proportion of the talent that exists in the world by being so male-dominated and this has got to change! In addition, women are going to be affected by climate change the most because they are always among the most vulnerable in any society. 

At Opportunity Green we are also trying to promote wider diversity in the maritime climate negotiations by supporting climate-vulnerable countries to participate more fully in the discussions in London by providing them with information and support as much as possible.

What role can governments play in promoting sustainable practices in the maritime industry?

Governments are the main actor that can promote sustainable practices in the maritime industry. The industry runs primarily on oil at the moment and there isn’t enough movement within the industry to move away from that. Without regulation, that is unlikely to change. 

That is one reason why at Opportunity Green we are creating a coalition of shipping and aviation companies called SASHA (Skies and Seas Hydrogen-fuels Accelerator Coalition) to work with governments to ensure we have the right regulations in place to truly drive sustainable change. 

Naa Densua Aryeetey RINAKOM Maritime & Trade Consult

What are some of the benefits of transitioning to a cleaner maritime shipping industry?

The maritime shipping industry is known to be a contributor to climate change. The world is moving towards decarbonization by 2050 with benefits like:

  • Reducing air pollution in port communities
  • Addressing increasing ocean noise
  • Increasing economic benefits and creating jobs
  • Facilitating renewable energy growth

Ensuring a just and equitable transition to Zero emissions, meaning sustainability goals must go hand in hand with equitable economic development and growth goals

For Africa, recent studies show that decarbonization leading to Zero carbon emissions by 2050 in Africa will bring immense benefits to the continent. Africa, therefore, can gain much with its buildup of renewable energy and the capacity to produce the new zero-carbon energy economy’s minerals, hardware, and software.

Credit: International Maritime Organization

What challenges are faced by women working in the maritime industry, and how can they be addressed?

The maritime industry has long been perceived as a male-dominated industry, a place not for women. However, women have been encouraged to go past this perception and find work in the industry. In spite of their courage, women continue to face challenges in the workplace both at sea and shore-based. Challenges such as

  • Gender Equality and gender pay gap in salaries – there must be equal pay for the same work undertaken by both women and men. There must be equal opportunities for training and being equipped with the necessary tools to work
  • The lack of Respect from male colleagues who believe that they have the right to all
  • Unconscious bias – there is the need to remove stereotypes. Men and women should be trained in this area and how best to manage such. Sometimes men are not aware that they are biased either toward a particular tribe, age. Etc.
  • Mental Health Issues
  • Work-life Support – as women tend to be the caregivers at home, a lot depends on the support they receive when they have to leave home to work. The care of the children, the aged, the disabled. The need for flexible hours is usually difficult to get.
  • Reproductive health rights – pregnancy, maternal leave, menstruation 
  • Insensitivity – women are emotional beings and are more sensitive to issues that may arise during the course of their work, sick, etc. It takes a caring person to spot this.
  • Fear and Isolation – they feel that they do not belong
  • Personal Safety and sexual harassment – sexual harassment for many women is a commonplace and potentially traumatizing event. They fear for their personal safety and always have to use second locks or alternative barring mechanisms on their cabin doors to prevent unwanted entry by male colleagues
  • Sanitary products and disposal facility – there is the need to have such on board or at seafaring centers as well disposable facilities.
  • Recruitment and Retention – there are initiatives to attract women to participate in seagoing, but how to retain them is an issue. When these women start a family, for them it is time to stay home as mothers, caregivers, and wives. The challenges at sea also do not help. Some retire to teach at maritime institutes, go for higher training, and may take up other shore-based careers.
  • Discrimination
  • Violence/bullying in any form whether physical or through technology
  • Very limited opportunities for promotions

There is now a need for more support for these women seafarers. Clear policies by companies, and a change in attitudes of fellow male colleagues, and superiors. The fear of victimization, and discrimination on board ships, keep women seafarers isolated. It is about time the men onboard are trained on gender and women empowerment. The need to have women on board vessels and the benefits thereof for all. There must be significant changes made in both the work environment and also in respect of welfare support they can access.

In Ghana, most organizations have Conditions of Service, which spell out the employee’s rights and obligations and that of the employer usually the government. Training opportunities and other benefits are spelled out in these conditions of service. The employees also have Unions who have a negotiating right to negotiate for any increases in salary, allowance, and benefits including bonuses at the end of the year.

Women account for just a little over 1% of the workforce in maritime, making them the minority and putting them at a disadvantage. There have been a lot of studies and surveys done by a number of organizations, some of which have been carried out in collaboration with WISTA, ISWAN, and International Chamber of Shipping and Anglo-Eastern who all offer solutions to these challenges.

Lucy Gilliam, Seas At Risk

What drove you to work in maritime shipping?

  1. Ships are polluting & burn dirty toxic untaxed fuels – I found this unjust!
  2. Shipping carries a majority of global trade & it seemed to me that cleaning up shipping would help clean up global trade.
  3. I love the ocean, so wanted to protect it.

What do you see as the most critical issues the shipping industry must deal with in the next decade?

There is a global permacrisis. Climate, biodiversity, poverty, wars. We need robust enforceable rules to transition the shipping/trade industry to operate within planetary boundaries. Transparency is critical. We must hold policymakers to account & stop the fossil lobby.

Gisa ParedesWellAtSea

What are the pollutants that we need to remove within the maritime industry?

This year’s theme for the Day of The Seafarer is “Oceans Worth Protecting”. To protect our oceans is to protect the conditions that those who live on the water need to endure every single day. And we can help them by eliminating the pollutants of the mind, body, spirit, and social environment on board. Self-awareness leads to other awareness. And reaching a higher level of environmental health, we need to clean up the stigma, stereotypes, bullying, harassment, and harm which face humans while working at sea.

What drove you to work in maritime shipping?

What drove me to the maritime was pure chance – I was invited to Singapore to look into the working environment of the crew on board an FSRU, and the rest is history! And while I probably didn’t know what I was walking into then, I know that I will remain in this industry simply because I have gained a deep respect for the men and women out there. Another main reason that keeps me here is my own personal passion for making health solutions accessible to many. I’d rather go out and try to reach people than sit in my office waiting for them to come to me. And for this reason, the WellAtSea program has come into existence.

Madeline RosePacific Environment

What can consumers do to support the transition toward cleaner shipping practices?

Consumers can help accelerate cleaner maritime shipping by purchasing from brands that have committed to reducing their emissions! Through our people-powered Ship It Zero campaign, we’ve compelled Amazon, Target, IKEA, Patagonia, and more to ship with 100% zero emissions by 2040! Now, we’re calling on Home Depot and Lowes to follow in their wake. Join us at https://shipitzero.org.

Credit: International Maritime Organization

How can the maritime shipping industry attract more women to take up careers in the sector and what advice do you have for women interested in pursuing?

Women are stepping up globally to lead our society to end the climate crisis. For shipping companies to attract more women to take up careers in maritime, they need to stop greenwashing, end fossil fuel reliance, and move on to the energy transition. My advice to women coming into maritime: the shipping industry’s old guard is systemically patriarchal. Find female friends and mentors – and legitimate male allies! Be prepared to be the only woman on panels and in rooms. And help bring more women in! 


Learn more about these incredible women in this article or share this story and let us make their voices heard, break down barriers, and foster an inclusive and diverse industry. Together, we will propel the voices of women in maritime to new heights.

You can also head on over to our recent Twitter Chat at #WIMDay2023, where these women shared what it’s like to work in the industry, how we can do better, and the ways they are working to eliminate pollution.

#WomenInMaritime #WIMday2023 #DiversityandInclusion #Sustainability #CleanShipping #CleanShips2030