THE IMPACT OF PROMOTING WOMEN IN THE MARITIME SECTOR
The participation of women in the maritime sector has traditionally been low due to historical, cultural and social factors. Although the percentage of women making up the maritime workforce has increased in recent years as a result of women's liberation movements and globalization, women are still found to be concentrated in housekeeping and hospitality functions in cruise vessels as opposed to working in the marine or galley areas. By encouraging more women to enter into areas that have traditionally remained dominated by men, a number of positive political and economic changes can be brought about. At the same time, there is the likelihood that certain social and cultural challenges may have to be dealt with.
The Positive Impact of Promoting Women in the Maritime Sector
Promoting women in the maritime sector can result in significant political and economic changes for both men as well as women. Women can come to be better represented in the strategic management in the sector which would also result in their ability to better support themselves and their families economically.
The Political Aspects
Promoting women in the maritime sector can help to reduce the disparity in political power between the genders in the maritime sector. Because of the greater demand on physical labour and long periods of stay away from the home, women have traditionally made up a small part of the maritime workforce. According to a study conducted by Wu (2005), women only make up 19% of the workforce in the maritime sector whereas men make up 81% of the workforce. This reflects the traditional identification of feminity as the antithesis of masculinity and is therefore a social construct instead of a biological or innate one (May & Powell, 2008).
By encouraging more women to enter the maritime sector, their political representation in the sector can be increased. By such representation, women can be in a stronger position to initiate changes in the industry sector to facilitate the employment of women. One significant challenge in the maritime sector for women is the long periods to be spent away from home, which places them in a dilemma with regard to their domestic responsibilities. Through increased participation in the workforce, women can use their collective power to bring about changes in shift duration that can allow them to balance their familial and professional commitments in a better way.
Another traditional limitation that has prevented women from joining the maritime sector in large numbers is the demand on physical strength and labor. Although this remains a necessity even in modern times, computerized machinery and technology have made maritime operations automated and less labor-intensive. Through greater participation, women can lead thinking in areas where the disparity in male-female participation in the workforce is based more on cultural precedent rather than on objective factors. Since there are fewer social or cultural taboos today concerning women's performing physical labor alongside of men, such promotion can help to narrow the political power gap between men and women in the maritime sector.
The study by Wu (2005) shows that in the maritime sector, women are largely employed in the guest service where 34% women find employment. Similarly, 23% of the women in the maritime sector are employed in the cabin department. In the bar and food department, another 20% of the women workforce find employment. However, they are employed in far less numbers in other departments. For instance, only 2% of the women in the maritime sector are employed in the marine department while 4% of the women are found in the galley department. Another report by Belcher et al. (2003) reveals that more than half of the seafaring women in the world work on ferries while close to another quarter work on ferry ships. Women are also found to outnumber men in some departments such as bar and food, cabin and guest service, where they have greater representation and enjoy greater power. However, these departments are perceived as support departments whereas other departments where men outnumber women are thought to be central and crucial for the maritime sector. The study also reveals that only 13% of the women occupy senior officer positions while most of them are in the junior or petty officer and middle level positions. Recently, however, more women seafarers on cruise ships have been assuming senior positions (Belcher et al., 2003). This puts women in a weaker position with regard to men in the maritime sector because they exercise less strategic power and control over resources. This political imbalance should be rectified to improve the welfare of women in the maritime sector.
The political power of women in the maritime sector can be increased by encouraging them to take up senior positions in greater numbers. By doing so, women can be given the opportunity to exercise control over strategic resources and determine the strategic direction for the company. Such control would also give them greater influence over shaping organizational policies and regulations. They can then draft policies to facilitate the entry and career growth of women in the maritime sector. It is also observed that there tend to be fewer senior officer positions in departments where women are present in greater numbers. Hence, along with increasing the number of women in these departments, it would also help to institute senior officer positions in these departments.
Promoting women in the maritime workforce involves paying attention to a number of political factors such as identifying the departments where women are in majority and those where they are in fewer numbers. Balancing the political power can promote the development of work policies conducive to more women joining the maritime sector.
The Economic Aspects
Increasing the number of women in the maritime sector can result in significant economic benefits to society and to the community by increasing the economic strength of women. May & Powell (2008) note that traditionally, the concept of a profession has been limited to paid work performed by men outside the household and that which involves physical labor. However, due to the growing influence of feminism and globalization, the traditional notions about employment and gender roles have been changing in the past few decades. More and more women are now becoming part of the workforce and are supporting their families with their income.
As has been stated in the previous section, women make up a very small proportion of the workforce while they make up more than half of the population. Therefore, increasing the proportion of women in the maritime sector is necessary to bridge the economic disparity between the genders. Brown & Brown (2007) have shown that among the foremost reasons for choosing a career in the maritime industry is the attraction of high salaries that are exempt from tax in some countries, such as in the United Kingdom. However, the maritime sector suffers from poor promotion and awareness at the same time, therefore, by increasing promotional efforts through recruitment drives and promotional videos, the economic benefits of a career in the maritime industry can be communicated to women.
Increasing the number of women in the maritime sector would also help to reduce the negative effects of the economic crisis. According to a report published by the ITF (2011), the effects of the economic crisis are going to be experienced far more severely by women than by men. This is because in developed as well as developing countries, women are usually employed in labour-intensive unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. It was estimated that by 2009, around 22 million jobs held by women would be lost to the economic crisis. Most of these women lie in the less-developed countries of the world. Fortunately, these are the very countries that are the biggest sources of human resource for maritime companies because of the low labor costs. Therefore, by encouraging women to seek employment in the maritime sector, the economic conditions of women can be improved.
The report cited above also stresses the importance of developing human capital across genders and taking special efforts at increasing the employable skills of women so that they may be in a stronger position to look after the needs of their families. The report (2011) also states that children in families where the woman is the breadwinner are generally healthier and have greater economic security.
Given the lengthened duration of the ongoing economic crisis, the manufacturing sector has suffered the greatest setback. This has left the maritime sector relatively less affected as the demand for raw materials as well as consumer goods in the developing markets of India and China continue to support growth and stability in the maritime industry. Therefore, to support the global economy during the economic crisis, it is necessary for the shipping and maritime sector to step up and provide employment opportunities to the vulnerable segments such as women.
The ITF (2011) report also notes that women in the transport sector have little influence over policy matters. This…