Women in Maritime Taskforce to map gender balance in UK shipping

Shipping minister Nusrat Ghani, in purple scarf, with members of the Women in Maritime Taskforce.

A benchmarking exercise to document the gender balance among UK maritime companies will be among the first initiatives undertaken by the Women in Maritime Taskforce.

At its inaugural meeting in London on 21 February, opened by recently appointed UK shipping minister Nusrat Ghani, taskforce chairperson Sue Terpilowski pledged that the group “would not be just a talking shop” and would give the government its initial recommendations within three months.

The taskforce will focus on how the UK maritime industry recruits women to the sector, the efforts it undertakes to retain them, and it will review remuneration, Terpilowski said.

“A lot of women enter the sector, but they just don’t stay. We need to find out why,” she added.

To assess how effective the taskforce is in its mission, the 30-strong group agreed that using a survey to map the gender balance of the UK maritime workforce – both onshore and at sea – is a necessary starting point for measuring the impact of change.

Speaking at the opening, the minister pledged her support for drawing more women to the maritime industry. “There is a fantastic wealth and breadth of career opportunities in maritime, and I am determined to see more women accessing these,” she said.

Referring to her own background as an Asian female, Ghani said that as a minister she is able to bring different experiences to the table and that it is important for industry to move away from recruiting people in its own image.

“Young women just need to meet us to find out more about shipping and see that we are not that different from them,” she said, stressing the importance of getting more females to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Ghani’s drive echoes calls from her predecessor, John Hayes, last September to enourage more women to join the UK maritime sector.

The United Kingdom’s maritime sector generates GBP37.4 billion (USD52.2 billion) in gross added value to the UK economy and for every GBP1 generated by the sector, the wider economy benefits by GBP2.59. The UK maritime industry supports 957,300 jobs and average annual pay, at close to GBP40,000, is significantly better than the national annual average of GBP27,600.