Women in Maritime


International Day for Women in Maritime 2022

The International Day for Women in Maritime 2022 is taking place on 18 May 2022. Please see all the details here

Why gender balance?

There is ample evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies, and even countries. Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better (see study, The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women's Representation on Boards). Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support.

The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.

Women in Maritime - IMO's gender programme

Today, women represent only 1.2% percent of the global seafarer workforce as per the BIMCO/ICS 2021 Seafarer Workforce Report. This represents a positive trend in gender balance, with the report estimating 24,059 women serving as seafarers, which is a 45.8% increase compared with the 2015 report. 

Within this historically male dominated industry, IMO has been making a concerted effort to help the industry move forward and support women to achieve a representation that is in keeping with twenty-first century expectations.

Within the framework of maritime development, and through its Women in Maritime programme, under the slogan: "Training-Visibility-Recognition", IMO has taken a strategic approach towards enhancing the contribution of women as key maritime stakeholders. IMO continues to support the participation of women in both shore-based and sea-going posts.

IMO is strongly committed to helping its Member States achieve the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 5 "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls".

IMO's gender programme was initiated in 1988. At that time, only a few maritime training institutes opened their doors to female students. Since then, IMO's gender and capacity-building programme has helped put in place an institutional framework to incorporate a gender dimension into IMO's policies and procedures. This has supported access to maritime training and employment opportunities for women in the maritime sector.

IMO supports the Maritime SheEO Leadership Programme

IMO's Women in Maritime programme is sponsoring women from developing countries to take part in the SheEO leadership scheme. The Maritime SheEO leadership accelerator programme aims to equip women with the leadership skills and confidence to take a seat at the shipping decision-making table. The first course, consisting of 8 weeks with a weekly commitment of 3-4 hours of learning, will be held during 2022.

Women in Maritime - Survey

IMO and WISTA International have conducted the inaugural Women in Maritime – IMO and WISTA International Survey 2021 to examine the proportion and distribution of women working in the maritime sector, from support roles to executive level positions.  Member States and companies/NGOS were asked to fill in the survey to provide essential baseline data. The results of the survey can be downloaded here.

Turning the Tide

A film from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) showing how IMO's women in Maritime programme is helping to support gender diversity in the maritime sector.


Maritime Women photo resources

Social Media Wall - #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare

To achieve a more diverse workforce, it is essential that women are visible – both within the maritime community and, more widely, in representations of the maritime sector in news reports and marketing material. 

IMO has invited women of the maritime sector to share photos of themselves at work, using the hashtag #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare. Thanks to contributions from around the world, IMO is building a bank of images of women in maritime, where external audiences can source quality and realistic photos for use in news stories, social media posts and brochures, for example. This can be accessed at the following link: Women in Maritime | Flickr

The aim is to achieve a more diverse representation of maritime careers in the media, so that roles such as captain, chief engineer and seafarer are also portrayed by women. This will be key in inspiring young women to embark a maritime career, by showing there is a place for them in the maritime sector. 

Women in maritime profiles

IMO has invited women who have benefited from the Women in Maritime programme to share their stories.
Please click on the thumbnails below to view the gallery of profiles.

How is IMO helping women in the maritime community?

IMO supports gender equality and the empowerment of women through gender specific fellowships; by facilitating access to high-level technical training for women in the maritime sector in developing countries; by creating the environment in which women are identified and selected for career development opportunities in maritime administrations, ports and maritime training institutes; and by facilitating the establishment of professional women in maritime associations, particularly in developing countries.

IMO gender-specific fellowships

Women in Port Management course, Galilee International Management Institute (GIMI), Nahalal, Israel

Since 2008, IMO has sponsored on average four fellowships per year for a two-week Women in Port Management course at GIMI. The course provides participants with key information and updates on innovations in the port industry. In 2018, financial support was increased and 10 fellowships supported women from 10 countries to attend the course. IMO covers return airfare, tuition fees and a stipend.

Click here to visit the website.

Courses on Women in Port Management, Institut Portuaire d'Enseignement et de Recherche (IPER), Le Havre, France

Each year, in collaboration with the Le Havre Port Authority, 2 two-week short upgrading courses are organized for female officials from maritime and/or port authorities of developing countries to improve management and operational efficiency of their ports. Lectures are delivered in either English or French on a variety of port matters including security, marketing, tariffs and logistics as well as facilitation of maritime traffic, ship/port interface and concession contracts. Visits are usually organized to the Port of Le Havre and the Port of Rouen, enabling the participants to experience for themselves the day-to-day operations of a port, with a view to applying this knowledge back in their respective countries.

On average, IMO sponsors 40 trainees per year for the English speaking course. IMO covers tuition fees and a stipend. 

Click here to visit the website. 

AtoN managers courses, delivered in partnership with the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA), IALA WWA, France

IMO's gender programme has also supported the participation of female mariners at the level 1 AtoN managers courses delivered by the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA). In 2018, IMO co-sponsored the participation of four trainees from four countries. IMO covered return airfare and a stipend.

Click here to reach the website.

Women in Maritime Associations

IMO has facilitated the creation of professional networks to improve gender balance in the shipping industry.  

Under IMO's auspices, eight Women in Maritime Associations (WIMAs) have been established in Africa, Arab States, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, covering some 152 countries and dependent territories and 490 participants.

Access to these regional maritime associations for women provides members with a platform to discuss a number of issues, not just about gender, but also technical issues. These associations could go some way to bridging the gap in narrowing some of the institutional barriers and cultural stigma facing women who enter the maritime industry.

Through IMO, each regional network has established national chapters which have delivered maritime career days and various activities, such as information on HIV prevention and sexual health; and beach clean ups.

Women in Maritime Associations (WIMAs) launched through IMO's gender and capacity-building programme:

  • Pacific Women in Maritime Association (PacWIMA) set up in Fiji in February 2004 and relaunched in Tonga in April 2016. (http://www.pacwima.com) Download the Regional Strategy for Pacific Women In Maritime 2020-2024.

  • Network of Professional Women in the Maritime and Port Sectors for West and Central Africa (NPWMP-WCA) - primarily Francophone, launched in Benin in February 2007. 

  • Association for Women in the Maritime Sector in Eastern and Southern Africa region (WOMESA) established in Kenya in December 2007. (http://womesa.org)

  • Women in Maritime Association, Asia (WIMA Asia) established in January 2010 and relaunched in the Philippines in 2015. (https://www.facebook.com/wimaasia/)

  • Women in Maritime Association, Caribbean (WiMAC) set up in Jamaica in April 2015. (http://wimacaribbean.com)

  • Arab Women in Maritime Association  (AWIMA) established in Egypt in October 2017. (http://www.arabwima.org/en/home)

  • Red de Mujeres de Autoridades Marítimas de Latinoamérica (Red-MAMLa), established in Chile in December 2017. (http://www.redmamla.org)
  • Women in Maritime of West and Central Africa (WIMOWCA) - primarily Anglophone, established in Ghana in July 2021. (https://www.instagram.com/wimowca/)

Supporting women at IMO's global maritime training institutions 

World Maritime University (WMU) 

The World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmö, Sweden is a postgraduate maritime university established under the auspices of IMO in 1983. WMU is committed to the advancement of women in the maritime sector. In 2018, the Award for the 1000th female graduate was made to Ms. Naandem Rita Njin from Nigeria. By 2018, 1,029 females had graduated from the University, out of a total 4,919 graduates. The number of female graduates has increased steadily over the years - from four in 1985 to 79 in 2018. 

The WMU Women's Association (WMUWA) aims to establish a network of past, current and prospective female students by expanding international networks with other organizations worldwide while planning for future growth. Through this Association, IMO funds one female to attend WMU each year. Website: http://wmuwa.wmu.se/ 

IMO International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI) 

The IMO International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI), in Valletta, Malta, was founded by IMO in 1988. IMLI trains experts in international maritime law. IMLI was the first UN body to include in its Statute a requirement that 50% of its places be reserved for women. 361 women had graduated by the end of academic year 2017-2018 out of a total of 837 graduates. Read more about IMO's global maritime training institutions here: http://www.imo.org/en/About/Pages/WMUandIMLI.aspx

World Maritime Day 2019

"Empowering Women in the Maritime Community" was selected as the World Maritime Day theme for 2019. This provided an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality, in line with the SDGs, and to highlight the important contribution of women all over the world to the maritime sector. 

Throughout the year, IMO worked with various maritime stakeholders to help create an environment in which women are identified and selected for career development opportunities in maritime administrations, ports and maritime training institutes and to encourage more conversation for gender equality in the maritime space. The Women in Maritime programme pushed forward with numerous activities, including premiering the film, Turning the Tide, launching the online profiles of women in the maritime sector and providing support to the Women in Maritime Associations (WIMAs) launched through the programme.

Achieving a barrier-free working environment for women in the maritime sector

At the end of 2019, the IMO Assembly adopted a resolution urging further firm action in coming years to advance gender equality throughout the maritime sector and reach a barrier-free environment. 

2019 - A YEAR OF ACTION - Click on the image to download the PDF. 

Read more here.

Other partners

WISTA International

The Women's International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA International) is an international networking organization with a mission is to attract and support women, at the management level, in the maritime, trading and logistics sectors. WISTA was granted consultative status with IMO in 2018. 

Consultative status gives WISTA the opportunity to promote diversity, inclusion and women's empowerment. WISTA can now formally contribute to the discussion for increasing capacity in the maritime industry, a critical component of which is promoting women in the industry, both shoreside and shipboard, and also showcasing the varied technical skills and leadership that women can and do bring to the industry. 

WISTA's efforts support the overarching principles in IMO's Strategic Plan, especially the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. It is envisaged that WISTA will play an important role helping IMO reach out to women in the maritime industry. 

WISTA is a strategic partner to the GEF-UNDP-IMO major project on ‘Building Partnerships to Assist Developing Countries Minimize the Impacts from Aquatic Biofouling’, also known as ‘GloFouling Partnerships’. This partnership will help bring female experts, including marine scientists, to biofouling conferences and other project activities. 

Website: https://wistainternational.com

Additional information