The Women's International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) was started forty years ago with just six women from three different European countries. Today, it has almost 2,000 members in thirty-three countries with representatives from nearly every sector of the maritime industry. Accounting for just two percent of the world’s maritime workforce of over 1.3 million, women continue to forge their place within the male-dominated sector, encouraging a more diverse, innovative and sustainable future. Here are just some of the inspiring women leading the way…
"We need to encourage people to look for the right ‘person’ for the job, rather than the right ‘man’ for the job.” ~ Sanjam Sahi Gupta, WISTA India Founder Member and President
When both my sister Sumeet and I started working in the family business, people would make assumptions. Because we had no brother, they assumed we were ‘allowed to join’. While attending dinners and gatherings, we would sometimes be the only women. I remember once the speaker addressing the room as ‘gentlemen’ and ignoring us completely. Women are often perceived as ‘non-serious’, mistaken for wives or secretaries. Nowadays, this has improved and we see many more women at association meetings and gatherings.
“I have never had any specific challenges because I am a woman; thus I am embracing it and working to turn it from a negative image into a positive one." ~ Karin Orsel, President of WISTA
I was 18 when I started working in this industry and 23 when I started my own company, which is almost 22 years ago. My company nowadays manages and partly owns a fleet of almost 50 vessels, employing 800 seafarers and 50-plus land-based colleagues. My goal is to attract people, and not only the next generation, to this industry making them aware of the opportunities they have when joining the maritime industry.
“Female talent in shipping is promoting diversity. I think it can also promote innovation and give this industry a more competitive advantage.” ~ Katerina Stathopoulou, WISTA EXCO Board Member
My career in shipping began when I answered a job ad in 1985, where Athenian Sea Carriers was recruiting for the position of Assistant CFO. Here I was, a very young lady with another two years to finish at university, applying and being called for an interview with the CFO. At this point, one must keep in mind that Greece in the mid-1980's and Greece today are two very different countries in terms of mentality!
“Today I think it’s an advantage to be a woman as I’m easy to recognise among the leaders of my generation.” ~ Lena Göthberg, Host and Producer of Shipping Podcast
My entrance into the shipping industry happened by coincidence, as does the working career for many people. I happened to be in the right spot at the right time. I did not have any connections prior to being recruited to a marine insurance broking house, but my education and my personal qualifications were an asset for the newly established company and I was given a lot of freedom with my responsibility.
“Show interest in the career that you have chosen and willingness to do every job, and that will be rewarded.” ~ Captain Lou Mitchell, Lecturer, UK Marine College
I do remember as a cadet leaving Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia-bound for the Suez Canal. At the time I was the 4-8 cadet on watch with the Chief Officer. The Master gave me the ‘con’, sat in the pilot chair and let me navigate. It was petrifying at the time, but such a great learning experience and I managed it. Until writing this, it had never dawned on me that he only gave me the ‘con’ because he knew that I had the ability to navigate the vessel safely and that he did it to boost my self-confidence.
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