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.
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.
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/)
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.