The Business Case: Diversity

In 2019, we conducted the first survey to get data for women in the Indian maritime industry. A survey of 205 companies across all verticals of maritime found that women comprised of:

20% of the Total Workforce
5% of the CEOs
17% of the board members
Even from the 20% women working within organizations we found that the majority of the women were in “supporting positions” rather than management functions.

90% of Companies stated that they received very poor applications from women during recruitment. And this is familiar isn’t it? How often do we hear companies lamenting that we want to hire women but we just aren’t able to find these women? In the survey, these companies further stated that not only recruitment but retaining women was the biggest hurdle. Apart from this survey, two other surveys were conducted to understand the issues faced by women at sea and onshore. 781 women working at the shore and 112 women seafarers took the survey and highlighted issues faced.

We cannot deny that our industry lacks inclusivity. With our own internalized biases, we’ve chosen to go with comfort over inclusivity. Simply put, we decide to include people who we think would look and think like the majority. Oh and sometimes the token woman thrown in because after all, appearances are everything.

The IMO theme for 2020 WMD was Sustainable shipping for a Sustainable Planet. COVID 19 has made last year’s theme even more relevant and the challenges it has posed for shipping. While 2019 was dedicated by the IMO to Empowering Women in Maritime I believe Sustainable Shipping cannot be achieved without Diversity or the role of the human factor.

There’s also a business case for more female expertise in the industry. Today, we’re missing out on 50% of the talent, 50% of the new ideas, 50% of the potential progress this industry could be making. And probably quite a lot of profit too.

An improved gender balance contributes to more diverse workplaces, with positive effects both internally and externally. Moreover, it positively influences the attractiveness of jobs and the competitiveness of the sector; The shipping industry places lesser emphasis on social sustainability as compared to economic and environmental sustainability hence it's important to show how social sustainability has a direct impact on economic sustainability. In fact, all three pillars are related.

Most industry stakeholders want a more prosperous industry where profits are bigger and higher. Were there gender parity in nations it’s proven that GDP would go up by 25%. On one hand, we lament about the lack of talent or labor pool available. On the other hand, we have women who want to work, want to have the right training, education has the right motivation but are not given equal opportunities to work.

To not let them work is a crime against economics and common sense. And if we want to make our industry and our country for that matter - even better then let’s give it a big boost by just letting women participate (even at the inequitable terms that they can participate) because statistics show there is a 23% pay gap in identical jobs globally -whether it is a developed or developing country. Just as companies declare their financial results, so should they be declaring their efforts in terms of diversity and social sustainability. How well they are doing in terms of gender participation, people of color etc. Looking after the human element. We need to have an index and they should declare similar data to what they declare their profits and financial statements. Companies should be ranked in terms of their sustainability initiatives. That way companies will want to step up as it will be public knowledge.

In 2020, we conducted important research to understand the business case for diversity in the Indian maritime Industry- over 100 companies were asked - “Has increased gender diversity/participation of women in your organization helped enhance your business outcomes?” A whopping 67% replied in the affirmative.

A qualitative individual feedback suggested that there is a wide belief that diversity leads to better business operations. However, we are unable to support this with hard figures in the absence of measurement systems available. To get actual figures, companies would have to link diversity measures to performance drivers in all parts of the organization and ultimately to the organization’s overall performance.

Equality is in itself a good goal - whether it delivers economic growth or not, but even if you are cynical enough not to believe in the idea, do it for economic growth.

Conclusion: In the highly competitive maritime industry, businesses need to rethink their hiring methods. Women can be the key to the future success of the maritime industry.