IMO-WISTA Women in Maritime survey highlights current gender diversity across the sector and sets a benchmark for progress


​Download the 2021 IMO-WISTA Women in Maritime Survey Report. 

Gender diversity in maritime is extremely fragmented by sector, according to data from the newly- published 2021 IMO-WISTA (Women's International Shipping & Trading Association) Women in Maritime Survey Report.  

The report, launched on the first IMO International Day for Women in Maritime, contains information about the proportion and distribution of women working in the maritime sector from IMO Member States and the maritime industry. The data demonstrates that women account for only 29% of the overall workforce in the general industry and 20% of the workforce of national maritime authorities in Member States. 

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, “Benchmarking the current state of the sector is vital to measure where we are, and where we need to go. The Women in Maritime Survey 2021 shines a spotlight on areas in which IMO Member States and the wider maritime industry are performing well – and, more importantly, those where additional attention, resources and encouragement are needed. By actively empowering women with the requisite skills, maintaining a barrier free working environment, we create truly sustainable systems of gender equality.” 

The survey contributes to initiatives to support the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality. 

Women in the workforce 

The report highlights great variation amongst individual sub-sectors. According to data gathered from Member States, search and rescue teams in national maritime authorities account for significantly fewer women staff (just 10%) as compared to female diplomats (33%) and training staff (30%). Industry data shows that women seafarers make up just 2% of the crewing workforce and are predominately found in the cruise sector, while in shipowning companies they made up 34% of the workforce. 

WISTA International President Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou said, “The knowledge we have gathered about gender diversity in the maritime industry through this first Women in Maritime Survey 2021 is an important step in our ambition to create holistic gender diversity. As a first snapshot, this survey gives telling evidence of how much work still needs to be done. But it also shows us where there are a few bright spots. The maritime industry can see for itself which sectors are pushing ahead with diversity, and which are not.” 

Ongoing diversity efforts 

The survey was conducted in 2021 through online assessments sent to IMO Member States and companies. The survey is one of the activities  under the 2020 IMO-WISTA Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on promoting greater diversity and inclusion through enhanced cooperation activities in the maritime sector. The MoU aims to set a framework for both IMO and WISTA to promote gender diversity and inclusion as vital factors in providing a sustainable future for the shipping industry worldwide.  

IMO and WISTA intend to produce future Women in Maritime survey reports to measure progress and serve as guidance for the appropriate allocation of resources and capacity building by various stakeholders. Other initiatives under the IMO-WISTA MoU include developing a database of female experts in a wide range of maritime subjects who are available for speaking engagements. This will contribute towards more diverse panels at maritime conferences and conferences beyond the sector. 

The 2021 IMO-WISTA Women in Maritime Survey Report can be downloaded here.

International Day for Women in Maritime 18 May – read more here: International Day for Women in Maritime 2022 (  

Media contacts:  

IMO - the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships. IMO's work supports the UN SDGs. 

Contact:  Natasha Brown  

WISTA - The Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA International) is a global organisation connecting female executives and decision-makers around the world. WISTA International has a membership of 55 WISTA National Associations and close to 4000 individual members from all sectors of the maritime industry. 

Contact: For media enquiries, either contact Sue Terpilowski +44 207 689 9009 or visit the media centre WISTA International