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IWD 2021: How to stand with women working in maritime

08 Mar 2021

Today is International Women’s Day – 8 March. All across the globe, the ITF global family are celebrating the contribution of women transport workers to moving the world.

We take a look at what today means for women working in the maritime industries.

'How we can stand with women seafarers' - Lena Dyring on International Women’s Day 2021

Whether they identify with the cruise sector, offshore, inland navigation, cargo shipping or passenger services - seafarers really keep the world and its people moving.

And women seafarers are every bit as important in making that happen.

Lena Dyring is Director of Cruise Operations for ITF-affiliate the Norwegian Seafarers' Union (NSU). She's also the women's representative on the ITF Seafarer Section Committee - speaking up for female seafarers from all across the globe.

Lena has some important messages for how we can support, encourage and stand with women seafarers on this International Women's Day:

'What women dockers are fighting for today' - Monique Verbeeck on International Women’s Day 2021

Women dockers do an incredible job, but they still face serious issues at work. ITF Dockers unions are united in fighting collectively for equality and opportunity for women in this industry, and that work is led by women dockers themselves.

Monique Verbeek from the Belgian dockers union BTB is the women’s representative on the ITF Dockers’ Committee and is relentless in her fight for women’s rights. Monique has a powerful message for us all today:

Maritime remains male-dominated, but unions are making a difference

ITF Maritime Coordinator Jacqueline Smith says the reality is that most sectors of the maritime industry have mostly-male workforces. But this is changing, with women making up significant proportions of some sectors, like in the cruise ships and ferry industries.

A big part of the change has been unions and responsible employers working together to improve working conditions, remove discrimination, and make practical changes that allow more women to enter maritime roles.

"Women still make up a small proportion of all dockers, seafarers and fishers - but we know we can only improve participation by women in our industries if we promote equality, diversity and opportunity," says Smith.

"If you look at the most successful companies out there, they draw on the talents and contributions of all their workers. They hire and promote fairly, based on employees' ability to do the job well. As unions, we've been making this argument for decades and in 2021, it is as relevant as ever."

ITF Maritime Coordinator Jacqueline Smith says working women shouldn't have to put up with different treatment from their managers or workmates | Credit: ITF

Jacqueline Smith certainly knows what it means to argue for women maritime workers at the highest levels.

Entering the industry as a croupier on large Northern European ferries in 1992, Smith became an active member of her union - the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union (NSU). She would go on to to represent seafarers in a number of roles, becoming President of the union in 2006. Jacqueline was the NSU's first female and youngest-ever president. She was re-elected in 2010.

Having led a major union and its 11,000 members for almost eight years, in 2014 Smith became the ITF's first female Maritime Coordinator. Her work involves representing workers across many maritime industries, fighting for fair pay and decent work, safe conditions, and equality for all.

"My message to all those women maritime workers out there is: you don't have to put up with the 'boys club'. You don't have to accept different treatment from your manager or your workmates. You earned your place in our industry. And if you want to stand up and call something out - there are plenty of us willing to stand with you." 


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