The global pandemic has sent shockwaves through the vast maritime industry causing unprecedented drop in maritime mobility and challenging the wellbeing of the already struggling seafarers’ community. The women work force in the maritime sector has been no exception to the Covid crisis. The Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA), known for its consistent efforts in highlighting the importance of gender diversity in the current male dominated maritime industry, identified the challenging times of Covid and its effect on women in the maritime sector as a significant period for spreading awareness about the challenges the women work force faces globally and contribute in redefining capabilities and job opportunities for women in maritime. Steering forward with its vision, WISTA became the first to launch a global online survey focussing on both positive and negative impacts of Covid on women in maritime, on 29th September 2021, in collaboration with Universidade Federal do Espirito Santo in Brazil who would be sponsoring WISTA with 240 hours of research work.
Being a part of WISTA’s diversity committee’s ongoing programme, the online survey aims to highlight the impact of Covid on both professional and personal lives of around 3800 women in maritime, who are members of WISTA’s global network from over 54 NWAs. It will be conducted through digital tools to ensure qualitative and quantitative data. The qualitative data of a number of in-depth case studies would be analysed descriptively and inferentially. The research conducted, will thus help redefine job rules, opportunities and challenges for women in maritime and could be used to make policy recommendations that would help escalate women in maritime to better positions.
Ms. Sanjam Sahi Gupta, WISTA International ExCo Member and Co-Chair of its Diversity Committee supports the cause of the research and comments, “While we all know and talk about the impact of COVID-19 on women, it’s important to get data that provides indisputable evidence. We need to use this data instead of assumptions which might lead to an incorrect conclusion. The findings will help us find the gaps and empower us to make informed decisions to support women”.
Despina Panayiotou Theodosiu, President of WISTA International believes that growing awareness for women in maritime would help ease pressures and pave the way for discussions for change. “The global pandemic has increased the pressure, both financially and mentally, for women and men who have to balance their work commitments with family life. Working from home is not always an easy task and it will have an impact on the maritime world as pressures increase. But the role of women in any household, especially with children or elderly family members, means they are, in many ways, under greater stress during any home working obligations. There is huge potential to redefine the roles of women in the maritime industry. This is an ideal opportunity to re-examine roles, create new career opportunities and give women the support they need.”
Fabiana Simoes Martins, Wista International ExCo Member and Co-Chair of its Diversity Committee firmly believes that in these challenging times of Covid, maritime industry should place gender diversity goals at the peak of its agenda. “At the stage we are at now, it is clear that COVID-19 accelerated change and brought challenges to all, but specifically to women, threatening gender equality goals for the coming years. It is the role of good leaders to engage everyone and put equality in the centre of the agenda toward a sustainable and global recovery. The way to start is understand the new challenges that women face globally, and this is the aim of WISTA International’s COVID survey.”